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Maxwell’s Tartan Ribbon

For some reason I’m already thinking of two Beatles related songs, namely Maxwell’s Silver Hammer and Ringo Starr’s Photograph.

I wonder if you know that last week (17th May) was the 150th anniversary of the first colour photograph?

A reproduction of Maxwell's tartan ribbon

I wonder if you know that James Clerk Maxwell a Scottish scientist was involved in this pioneering work? It was almost a sideline for Maxwell whose work laid the foundations for much of today’s electronic and digital technology. Prominent scientists believe that had Maxwell not died at such a young age (48), the theory of relativity put forward by Albert Einstein, may well have been discovered decades earlier.

My interest in Maxwell stems from a highly unusual but fascinating and memorable evening of music and 3-d film at Maxwell’s birthplace in Edinburgh, presented by former Blue Nile keyboard man PJ Moore with the aid of a string quartet a few years ago.

Maxwell is a hero of PJ’s (Paul’s) and he was keen to mark the anniversary of the colour photo.

Here he is quoted in an article from the Scotsman:

PJ Moore, a former member of the Glasgow band The Blue Nile, has written a song in homage to the inventor, which he plans to publish online this week to mark the 150th anniversary of Clerk Maxwell’s colour image achievement.

“The song is the centrepiece of some work I’ve been doing for some time on Clerk Maxwell,” explains Moore, who graduated with a degree in electronics before joining the band in 1981 and is planning to create a piece of theatre about Clerk Maxwell’s life.

“I think Maxwell is just amazing – he is like a real life Victorian Doctor Who, a wi-fi enabled magician abroad in the steam age.”

Moore’s fascination with the physicist began in the 1980s when he was living in India Street, just doors away from Maxwell’s birthplace – then a private house. The building has since been turned into a museum by the Clerk Maxwell Foundation.

“I’d been in the studio all day, recording our second album,” recalls Moore. “I went out for a walk to clear my head and to listen to what we’d recorded that day. I had my Walkman on and I was just wandering along when I spotted a plaque on one of the houses. It said ‘James Clerk Maxwell was born here’. I just stopped and stared at it.”

Moore had been aware of Clerk Maxwell’s existence through his studies, but had never seriously considered his ongoing legacy. “I suddenly realised everything I’d been doing that day was thanks to James Clerk Maxwell. The big speakers in the studio, the headphones on my Walkman. None of that would have been possible without his discoveries. Even the electric guitar was really a Maxwell device.”

Moore’s song, entitled Photograph, pays homage to the image created by the scientist. Although known as the first colour photograph, there was never a hard image of the ribbon, just a projection.

And indeed here is PJ’s song.

And HERE is a link to the accompanying explanation.