Saturday, 16 February 2013

Bertie Boffin, James Clerk Maxwell and Toby

As well as meeting Horatio, I went to visit another very special Edinbugh dog last week.

This one is called Toby, and he sits at the foot of the eminent Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell - you can find the statue on George Street in Edinburgh's New Town.


You're not familiar with James Clerk Maxwell?

You certainly should be. What a good thing it is that Blogville has a resident Boffin. Let me explain.

About 150 years ago, James Clerk Maxwell developed the set of equations which unite electricity, magnetism and light into a single theoretical framework. Many scientists - not all of whom are Scottish Nationalists - consider his contributions to physics to be surpassed only by Newton and Einstein.

And what's more, he used his dog Toby as a sounding board for his ideas. (Maxwell was known for his 'social awkwardness' so perhaps no-one else would listen).

I have been imagining how those conversations went:

JCM: Toby, I have been thinking. Surely the force fields associated with electricity, magnetism and light are one and the same?

Toby: Yap.

JCM: Toby, I do believe that the relationship can be accurately expressed by the following set of equations. Are these not rather elegant?

Toby: Woof woof.

JCM: Toby, it strikes me that light must travel through space at a constant speed in the form of electromagnetic waves. Do you understand my point?

Toby: Woof-ly

JCM: Toby, in my down time from formulating classical electromagnetism I have, along with my colleague Boltzmann, been ruminating on the kinetic theory of gases, a productive line of enquiry too, wouldn't you say?

Toby: Zzzzzzzzzz.


  1. We frequently contemplate gasses...

    Bart, Ruby and Otto

  2. George Street!!thanks for telling us about James Maxwell and Toby, never heard of him, mind you things like that go over my head that's why you are a Boffin lol.
    Have a Good Week
    George xxx

  3. Oh Bertie you have grown into a fine young egg-head. We thank you for proffering your knowledge to us and introducing us to Maxwell & Toby! Have a great weekend.
    Smooches from pooches,
    BabyRocketDog & Hootie

  4. With out Toby....he probably wouldn't have created the theories he did....we all know we are the REAL brains behind our peeps

  5. Deew Bewtie
    I am pawsitive that Toby was the main weeson that Mw.Maxwell was able to come to those fantastical conclusions and bwing yet mowe honow to the gweat skientific commoonity of Scotland. Thank you fow telling us this impawtant stowy. So glad you got to "meet" them
    Bewtie, if you have time, don't fowget to come see youwself in the FunHouse Miwwow(i'm suwe you can explain to all of us why we look so vewy weewd. Speshully Lacie's bum, hehehehe). Today is the last day of the Ciwcus so I hope to see you thewe and at the food tents
    Smoochie kisses

  6. Dogs are such geniuses, eh? It was probably Toby agreeing to these theories that really lit the fire for all the experiements, you know?

  7. Why I know a bunch of Lee's secrets. She confides in me all the time. May the force be with you,
    Sweet William The Scot

  8. Hey Bertie: Oh, I wish I had this information a few years ago when I was in the slammer for several months. I am sure it would have helped me to figure things out better.


    1. Do my flappy little ears detect a note of sarcasm here Stella...?

  9. Behind every great man, there is a great dog.....

    Muffin and I couldn't pronounce all those big words today but that's OK. As long as the dog was involved life is good!

    Lily Belle

  10. Perhaps the dog thought it all up in the first place!

  11. We agree with Lily a great dog behind very great man. Have a super Saturday.
    Best wishes Molly

  12. Bertie - Did you see Greyfriars Bobby ?

  13. We are so excited that Toby has been recognised in statue form for his contributions to physics. We're also impressed that Maxwell has been recognised by non-Scottish Nationalists. BUT we sort of joined Toby in his reaction to the last bit. ZZZZzzzzz.

    XXXOOO Daisy, bella & Roxy

  14. Of course we know who Maxwell is. Momma says that those were the only four equations from which everything was ever derived on her electricity and mgmitism tests in college. I'm sure his pup helped him focus on his discoveries. Maybe even had the idea first.


  15. Thanks for teaching us new stuff today Bertie
    Benny & Lily

  16. Thanks for the info on another great Scottish scientist, Bertie. We're sure our lives are all much better for his contributions - and his human's too, of course.

  17. This is so cool, Bertie. I have to go get Dachshund Daddy and tell him to come back with me!

    Keep on wagging and teaching us cool maths,

  18. Hi Bertie...what a lovely set of pictures and we see the sun too.

    Mom says those equations look suspiciously things she remembers seeing when she worked in the Physics department...there was lots of electromagnetic wave talk there too.
    Hugs Madi your BFFF

  19. Those are great pictures, Bertie!
    I'm glad you enjoyed Edinburgh! Oh how I wish I could go on a train...
    P.S. Eve is learning about the Electro Magnetic spectrum in Physics just now. She's finding it really confusing, so maybe you could do a Boffin post explaining it all? Woof! Of course, I Pippa, know all about it!

  20. Happy birthday Bertie. :) You know, I must've walked or driven past James Clerk Maxwell's statue hundreds of times and I never noticed the dog. Not once. I shall keep an eye out for it the next time I'm back there!