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K is for… Kelvin [ABC Sundae]

K is for... Kelvin [ABC Sundae]

If you’re not familiar with Glasgow, especially the West End and the immediate area around the University, the name ‘Kelvin’ will probably primarily bring to mind temperature, namely a unit of measurement of temperature. The man behind the unit of temperature, the Kelvin (K), is William Thompson, the 1st Baron Kelvin, a Scottish mathematical physicist and engineer, and a Professor of Natural Philosophy at the University of Glasgow for 53 years.

A common misconception which many fall for, including myself, is that the man responsible for the measurement of temperature came first and the surrounding areas were named in his honour. Instead, Baron Kelvin, or Lord Kelvin, is a title that was bestowed on William Thompson for his achievements, the name taken from the river that flows past the University of Glasgow, the River Kelvin.  The ‘Lord’ part comes from him being the first UK scientist elevated to the House of Lords. He was also knighted by Queen Victoria for his work on the transatlantic telegraph project.

Although the word ‘Kelvin’ is most common around the University, the river itself is almost 35 kilometres (22 miles) long, with only the last few kilometres wrapping around the University and Glasgow’s West End. The surroundings of the University are especially littered with the word Kelvin, with the name being attached to Kelvingrove Park, Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Kelvin Hall (home to Glasgow’s Museum of Transport and the Kelvin Hall International Sports Arena), the Great Western Bridge (which is commonly known as Kelvinbridge), Kelvin Way (which runs from University Avenue down to Sauchiehall Street, cutting through Kelvingrove Park), four areas of Glasgow (Kelvinbridge, Kelvindale, Kelvinside, North Kelvinside), and two subway stations (Kelvinbridge and Kelvinhall).

The University has attached the name to the Kelvin Building (formerly the Natural Philosophy Building), Kelvin Gallery (in the Main Building), the Kelvin Chair of Natural Philosophy, the Kelvin Medal and Prize and Kelvin Lodge (a hall of residence at 8 Park Circus, which I’m not sure if it’s there any longer), all in honour of the man, instead of the River. The Hunterian Museum also has a permanent exhibition on Lord Kelvin: Revolutionary Scientist. (source)

ABC Sundae is a fortnightly theme day, occurring every other Sunday, one letter of the alphabet at a time. Click here for more ABC Sundae.

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4 responses

  1. Jen

    I didn’t know that. I was at that very statue between Christmas and New Year. So a Kelvin might have been called a Thompson!

    January 24, 2010 at 12:18 pm

  2. Raj

    I’m unfamiliar with the Kelvin Hall in the main building. Can you describe where it is?

    February 2, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    • It’s Kelvin GALLERY, not Kelvin Hall, thanks for pointing that out to me. I’ve corrected the original post. It’s on the same floor as the Hunterian Museum, just to the west of the museum in the North Front of the building.

      Had an exam there last year and the elevator to the Hunterian Museum kept making a beep every 5 minutes or so throughout the exam.

      February 4, 2010 at 12:56 am

      • Raj

        Ah yes, the Kelvin Gallery, I’d forgotten about that. I’ve only been in it when it was being used for Freshers’ Fairs several years ago.

        And my sympathies regarding the elevator – I could imagine the beeping to get very distracting, very quickly.

        February 5, 2010 at 10:06 pm

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