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Peter Guthrie Tait (1831–1901), FRSE

Photo credit: The Royal Society of Edinburgh

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Born in Dalkeith, Tait went to school there before entering Edinburgh Academy. He went to Cambridge where he was the youngest Senior Wrangler on record in 1852. As a Fellow of Peterhouse he lectured in mathematics and then became Professor of Mathematics at Queen's College, Belfast in 1854 and was elected to succeed Forbes at Edinburgh as Professor of Natural Philosophy in 1860. He was closely associated with Lord Kelvin and cooperated with him in the well known text 'Treatise on Natural Philosophy'. Kelvin regarded Tait's work on the 'Kinetic Theory of Gases' as of fundamental importance but he also worked on thermo-electricity, thermal conductivity of metals, impact and duration of impact and the compressibility of water, glass and mercury, the latter connected with his contribution to the HMS Challenger Report.

The Royal Society of Edinburgh





oil on canvas


H 131 x W 100 cm

Accession number


Acquisition method

presented by a committee of subscribers, 1892

Work type



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The Royal Society of Edinburgh

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

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