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Silvanus P. Thompson


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Silvanus Phillips Thompson FRS (19 June 1851 – 12 June 1916) was an English professor of physics at the City and Guilds Technical College in Finsbury, England. He was elected to the Royal Society in 1891 and was known for his work as an electrical engineer and author. Thompson's most enduring publication is his 1910 text Calculus Made Easy, which teaches the fundamentals of infinitesimal calculus, and is still in print. 

Thompson also wrote a popular physics text, Elementary Lessons in Electricity and Magnetism, and Lord Kelvin and Michael Faraday biographies. Thompson was born on 19 June 1851 to a Quaker family in York, England. His father served as a master at the Quaker Bootham School in York, and he also studied there. In 1873 Silvanus Thompson was made the science master at the school. He graduated and sat for a Bachelor of Arts University of London external degree in 1869.

After a teaching apprenticeship, he was awarded a scholarship to the Royal School of Mines (RSM) in South Kensington, where he studied chemistry and physics. He graduated with honors with a Bachelor of Science degree and started working at RSM. He soon became a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical and Physical Society; he participated in meetings—lectures with demonstrations of experiments organized at the Royal Institution.

On 11 February 1876, he heard Sir William Crookes give an evening discourse at the Royal Institution on The Mechanical Action of Light when Crookes demonstrated his light mill or radiometer. Thompson was intrigued and stimulated and developed a major interest in light and optics (his other main interest being electromagnetism). In 1876 he was appointed as a lecturer in Physics at University College, Bristol, and later was made Professor in 1878 at the age of 27.

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