James Prescott Joule, FRS (Born::December 24, 1818 – Died::October 11, 1889) was an English physicist, born in Salford, Lancashire, England. Although his work was slow to gain acceptance, he was one of the leading physicists of his time.
As a child, Joule was introverted and physically weak, and suffered from a disorder of the spine. For this reason he avoided physical exertion, and preferred to immerse himself in his studies.
James Joule is known for his research into electricity and thermodynamics. In 1839 he established that the various forms of energy (electrical, mechanical, and heat) are essentially the same and can be changed one into another.
Joule formed a law, known as Joule’s Law. According to this law, "a conductor carrying a current generates heat at a rate proportional to the product of the resistance (R) of the conductor and the square of the current (I)."
James Joule had a unit of electrical energy named after him, called the Joule. The Joule is equal to 1 watt-second, and 3600 joules is 1 watt-hour.
In 1852 he joined up with eminent British physicist William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) and discovered that the temperature of gas falls when it expands without any external work. This cooling of gases as they expand is known as the Joule-Thomson effect.
First Law of Thermodynamics
Joule’s principle of energy conservation formed the basis of the First Law of Thermodynamics. This law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but it can be changed from one form to another. Isaac Asimov called this law "one of the most important generalizations in the history of science." Author Scott Huse says of this in his book The Collapse of Evolution, "This law teaches conclusively that the universe did not create itself! ... The present structure of the universe is one of conservation, not innovation as required by the theory of evolution."
Biographer Ann Lamont says that James Joule "was a sincere Christian, known for his patience and humility." He saw no contradiction between his work as a scientist and his confidence in the truth of the Bible. He firmly acknowledged God as the Creator of all. Joule's own words set out the priorities by which he lived, "After the knowledge of, and obedience to, the will of God, the next aim must be to know something of His attributes of wisdom, power and goodness as evidenced by His handiwork."
From 1872, Joule's health deteriorated and he did little further work. He died at Sale, Cheshire, England, on October 11, 1889.
- James Joule The great experimenter who was guided by God by Ann Lamont. Creation 15(2):47–50 March 1993