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Institute of Physics
History of Physics Group


The laboratories and equipment used by the Third Baron Rayleigh (John William Strutt) and his son, the Fourth Baron Rayleigh (Robert John Strutt), remain largely as they were when used by these great scientists. This unique inheritance from an earlier age provides a fascinating insight into the way that science was conducted at the end of the nineteenth and the beginning of the twentieth centuries.

the laboratory A half-day meeting of the History of Physics to be held at the Institute of Physics headquarters in London will provide an opportunity to hear about these laboratories and to learn about the scientific contributions made by the Third Baron Rayleigh.

These include theoretical and experimental work in virtually every field of physics known at the time, including electricity, magnetism, thermodynamics, acoustics, fluid dynamics and optics. Many effects he discovered are known by his name; for example Rayleigh scattering, the Rayleigh-Jeans law, the Rayleigh criterion, Rayleigh waves, Rayleigh damping etc. Surprisingly he is less well remembered for one of his greatest achievements, namely the discovery of argon for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize.

THURSDAY 17 JULY 2008 at 2.00 pm

The programme will consist of three illustrated presentations:

2.00pm My Forebears by the 6th Baron Rayleigh

2.30pm The Laboratories and Work of the 3rd Baron Rayleigh by Professor E A Davis

3.30pm Tea

3.45pm The Discovery of Argon by Sir John Meurig Thomas

4.45pm Close of programme

To register for this meeting or for further information please contact

Note from the webeditor
I first encountered Lord Rayleigh's work in his two volumes on "The Theory of Sound" 1877. It has excellent descriptions of wave motion still useful for today's physics students. Those interested in church bell ringing may like to look at his paper in the Philosophical Magazine January 1890 "On the Tones of Bells" which has been mounted on the Internet at URL

Page last updated 17 April 2008