Lord Kelvin, the world is indebted to him.
How many people entering Botanic Gardens pause to think of the eminent and worthy son of Belfast? Whose statue adorns the entrance?
If Belfast was not the home of his maturity it certainly was the home of his youth for here he was born on June 26th, 1824, and spent the first eight years of his life. His father James, was a teacher of mathematics at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution and later became a professor of the same subject at Glasgow University. His brilliant son William matriculated at the early age of 10. He entered Cambridge University in 1841 and four years later took his degree as Second Wrangler and won the Smith’s Prize. Thus began an eventful career, which gained for him the distinction of universal recognition as one of the greatest physicists of his time. After his graduation he spent a year in the Paris laboratory of Regnault, who was then experimenting on the thermal properties of steam. He became a professor when he was only 22 and in 1846 he was appointed to the Chair of Natural Philosophy in Glasgow University and thus began an association with the university that was to last to his death 53 years later at the age of 83.
Kelvin was himself a great inventor and to him seamen owe an incalculable debt of the design and effectiveness of the marine compass. He also solved the problems of the Atlantic submarine cable and invented a marine depth sounder, the galvanometer, and the first portable electrometer. He also investigated wireless telegraphy as far back as 1853. Although outstanding in his contributions to the study of thermo – dynamics (in which among other things, his dynamical theory of heat commanded universal acceptance) but it is in the field of electricity and submarine telegraphy that he is best known.
Anything that would lighten the labour of his fellow men or increase the area of human knowledge, interested this great man. He was a modest, sincere and upright in character, and he devoted his brilliant gifts to studies which benefited the community and enriched the whole field of human endeavor. Lord Kelvin we are told retained many memories of his happy youth in Belfast and a real affection for the city whose citizens have ever regarded him as the humble but potent genius whose grave lies beside that of Sir Isaac Newton in Westminster Abbey.
Ps In the Botanic gardens they have a Ginkgo Tree which is called “a living Fossil” and is not to be found growing wild anywhere