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James David Forbes (1809–1868), FRSE

Photo credit: The Royal Society of Edinburgh

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The sitter was the son of the banker Sir William Forbes, 7th Baronet of Pitsligo and of his wife, Williamina Belsches, Scott's first love. In 1860 he succeeded Sir David Brewster as Principal of St Andrews University. Following Melloni's detection of the refraction of thermal radiation, and using a thermopile made under his supervision, Forbes discovered the polarisation of radiant heat. He also demonstrated the double refraction of thermal radiation and then polarised heat in a circulatory manner in a Fresnel rhomb of rock salt.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh


  • Date


  • Medium

    oil on canvas

  • Measurements

    140 x 110.5 cm

  • Accession number


  • Acquisition method

    commissioned, 1860


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The Royal Society of Edinburgh

22–26 George Street, Edinburgh, Edinburgh EH2 2PQ Scotland

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