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James Prescott Joule
James Joule - Physicist
Born (1818-12-24)24 December 1818
Died 11 October 1889(1889-10-11) (aged 70)
Citizenship British
Known for First Law of Thermodynamics
Scientific career
Fields Physics
Influences John Dalton
John Davies

James Prescott Joule (24 December 1818–11 October 1889) was an English physicist, born in Salford, near Manchester. In his time he had great contribution to the world of electricity and thermodynamics. He was best known for discovering Joule's law]. Later Joule worked with William Thomson to find out that the temperature of gas falls, as gas expands. This principle was then known as the Joule-Thomson effect.

Early life

PSM V05 D008 James Prescott Joule
1892 illustration of Joule

The son of Benjamin Joule, a wealthy brewer, James Prescott Joule was born in the house next to the Joule Brewery in New Bailey Street. James was tutored at the family home near Salford until 1834 when he was sent, with his elder brother Benjamin, to study with John Dalton at the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society.

Kinetic theory

Joule James Jeens engraving
James Prescott Joule

Kinetics is the science of motion. Joule was a pupil of Dalton and he had learned a firm belief in the atomic theory, even though there were many scientists of his time who were still skeptical. He had also been one of the few people receptive to the work of John Herapath on the kinetic theory of gases. He was further greatly influenced by Peter Ewart's 1813 paper On the measure of moving force.


Joule died at home in Sale and is buried in Brooklands cemetery there. The gravestone is inscribed with the number "772.55", his 1878 measurement of the mechanical equivalent of heat. The Wetherspoon's pub in Sale, the town of his death, is named after him "The J. P. Joule". The family brewery still lives on but now located in Market Drayton.

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