Biography of James Prescott Joule

James Prescott Joel is an English physicist who studied the nature of heat and discovered the interconnection of heat and mechanical work.

Childhood and youth

James Joule was born on December 24, 1818 in Manchester, England. He was one of five children from his parents – Benjamin Joule’s father, a wealthy brewer, and mother, Alice Prescott Joel, the daughter of John Prescott of Wigan.

James Joule was weak and painful, because of what he could not attend school like all children of his age and got his primary education from his aunt at home.

As a child, he really liked electricity and electrical effects; he conducted tests at home, and in one of such experiments, due to his own inattention, he struck with the current of one of the servants who had lost consciousness from an electric shock.

With the deterioration of the health of his father, James, who at that time was only 15 years old, and his older brother Benjamin were forced to start

working at the brewery. At the same time, he studied with John Dalton, the famous English chemist.


In 1838, at the age of nineteen, Joule constructed an electromagnetic motor.

In 1840, he replaced the steam engines used at his father’s brewery, the new ones – electric, for the sake of scientific and economic experiment, because he wanted to achieve greater efficiency.

In 1841, he conducted an experiment to establish the relationship between the current, resistance and heat generated by them in the conductor. This experiment was called the first law of Joule.

In 1845, Joule showed the world an experiment with a propeller wheel, which helped him understand the idea of ​​conservation of energy. He said that during the experiment, the mechanical energy is converted into heat. Later, on the basis of this discovery, the law of conservation of energy appeared.

In 1847, on one of his reports, he met William Thomson, with whom he worked together on several studies on thermal effects. Together they presented to the world the Joule-Thomson effect and an absolute

thermodynamic scale.

Basic work

Joule studied the nature of heat and established the relationship between heat and mechanical work.

Subsequently, these studies were called the law of conservation of energy, which was then used to formulate the first law of thermodynamics.

On the basis of these scientific studies, Joule formulated his first law, which deals with the interaction of the passage of electric current through a conductor and a certain amount of heat released as a result of this.

The law states: the heat that is released due to the generation of the galvanic current is proportional to the square of the intensity of this current, multiplied by the resistance to conductivity.

His joint work with William Thomson led to an outstanding discovery, known as the Joule-Thomson effect. The effect describes the change in temperature of a gas or liquid that passes through a valve isolated from the external environment.

Together with Thomson, Joule also worked on an absolute thermodynamic scale, which is known as the Kelvin temperature scale, named after William Thomson, who wore the title of Lord Kelvin.

Awards and achievements

In 1852, Joule received a medal of the Royal Scientific Society for the publication of the work entitled “On the mechanical equivalent of heat.”

In 1860 he was elected president of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Community. He was also president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science from 1872 to 1887.

In 1880 he received the Albert medal of the Royal Society for the Advancement of Arts for establishing the relationship between heat, electricity and mechanical work.

In honor of James Joule, a memorial was built in the northern part of Westminster Abbey, and a statue was erected in the Manchester City Hall.

Personal life and heritage

In 1847, Joel married Amelia Grimes, daughter of John Grimes, who was the head of the customs in Liverpool. The couple had two children – Benjamin Arthur and Alice Amelia.

In 1854, his wife and son were killed, and he lived as a widower until the end of his life, working tirelessly.

The British government appointed Joule a life pension of 215 pounds sterling for his work and achievements.

His unique achievements in the energy industry and its aspects are still the basis for many researchers.

The unified unit for calculating the energy and heat of the SI system was named in his honor.

James Joule died after a long illness on October 11, 1889 in Sale, England.

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Biography of James Prescott Joule