IOP sets up the Kelvin Maxwell Fund to support physics in Scotland

28 April 2017

The IOP in Scotland is launching a fund to provide financial support for the Institute's outreach activities in Scotland.

IOP sets up the Kelvin Maxwell Fund to support physics in Scotland


Called the Kelvin Maxwell Fund, it will be a fund through which the IOP will support physics outreach exclusively in Scotland, with the aim of reaching new audiences and inspiring Scotland’s future physicists.

The idea for it originally came from IOP in Scotland members and was developed in collaboration with the IOP in London. Although an initial appeal has gone out to all IOP members in Scotland, people who are not members can also contribute to the fund.

The IOP is currently developing a programme of public engagement with the aim of reaching across Scotland to generate greater curiosity about physics and to make it more accessible to young and old alike. Some proposals include science storytelling events, embedding physics into Scotland’s festival scene and engaging with communities in hard to reach places. The IOP is hoping that involvement in activities like these will have an influence long after the events.

Such a big undertaking needs financial support, the letter to members in Scotland said. It went in the name of the chair of the IOP in Scotland Committee, Professor Martin Hendry, and the chair of the IOP Education Committee for Scotland, Professor Jim Hough, and said: “By embracing the names of Scotland's two most pre-eminent physicists, we are seeking to harness our own scientific past to establish a foundation from which we can build our future.”

Commenting on the launch of the Kelvin Maxwell Fund, Hendry said: “While the name of the fund celebrates two historical giants of Scottish physics, Lord Kelvin and James Clerk Maxwell, we believe that the fund will help the Institute to showcase the many exciting discoveries still being made by Scottish physicists today, and the crucial role played by physics underpinning every aspect of our modern technological society. In this way we aim to promote the key message that physics is for everyone – and that Scottish physics has a very bright future.”

“We are particularly keen to build on our existing work on improving the gender balance in Scottish physics,” added Hough, “and we hope that the fund will play a vital part in this too – drawing upon the inspiration of some remarkable scientists from both past and present: Mary Fairfax Somerville, whose research paved the way for the discovery of Neptune; Williamina Fleming, who pioneered the spectral analysis of starlight; Professor Dame Jocelyn Bell, current president of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, who discovered the first pulsar; and Professor Sheila Rowan, chief scientific adviser to the Scottish Government and a key figure in the first-ever detection of gravitational waves.”