James Clerk Maxwell is one of the greatest Physicists of all time, and probably the greatest nineteenth century physicist. He is best known for his electromagnetic equations which brought together various observational and theoretical aspects of electricity and magnetism and unified them into a single theoretical structure. It is the testament to his genius that these equations are still used more or less unmodified well over a century and a half since they were first proposed. Not only that, but all of the modern equations for all other forces of nature are directly modeled on Maxwell's equations. Thus, not only were Maxwell's insights able to stand the incredible revolutions in Physics over the last hundred years, but in a very concrete way they were a model of what to aspire for in the physical theories.
Unfortunately, most people today, even professional Physicists like myself, have never come across any of Maxwell's writings in their original form. This is primarily due to the fact that even though the content of the physical theories has not really changed, our understanding of them has significantly evolved. Furthermore, there has been a tremendous amount of standardization in mathematical and conceptual formalism over time, and some of the older scientific articles have become quaint in their use of language, or in some cases even unintelligible.
This short volume aims to bring to the reader Maxwell's five more accessible lectures. The lectures are very short and non-technical, and there is not a single equation or a graph in any of them. They deal with some very accessible topics: the nature of color, role of mathematics and visual aids in science, the role of experimental science courses in the liberal arts curriculum, the foreshadowing of some relativistic ideas, etc. Unfortunately the language of the lectures is quintessentially Victorian, with long verbose sentences that are constructed in terms of more and more nested ideas. Modern readers unaccustomed to this style of writing will likely have to re-read several of these unwieldy sentences in order to get a better grip of what is being said. Nonetheless, most of the topics and themes of these lectures are easy to follow and understand, and even if you are not the most hard-core fans of history of science you will enjoy reading this short collection of lectures.