James Joule (24th December 1818 to 11th October 1889)

 

Here I am at the grave of James Joule an English physicist and brewer (strange combination) who was born a few miles away in Salford. He studied the nature of heat and how energy can be converted into different forms. In scores of equations, books, science papers and you’ll find the term “joule” - a unit of energy - named after him.

 

I’m thick so I can’t really understand his achievements (when I was 17 I still thought thunder came from clouds banging into one another, also that men and women could only get married if the man was taller.) James’s dad was a rich brewer who fired the minds of his two sons. Fascinated by electricity they would give each other electric shocks (as well as the family servants.) Though he was tutored by the famous scientist John Dalton science was an engrossing hobby and his job was managing the brewery. However he started investigate the feasibility of replacing the brewery's steam engines with the newly invented electric motor. He was soon crossed from making beer to science.

 

At 23 he described “Joule’s law” in a paper saying that heat produced in a wire by an electric current is proportional to the product of the resistance of the wire and the square of the current - no, I don’t have a clue what this mean either. Just to make your brain fry like an egg he also concluded that heat which is evolved by the proper action of any voltaic current is proportional to the square of the intensity of that current, multiplied by the resistance to conduction which it experiences. My brain’s hurting, too.

 

Anyway this man’s contribution to science meant he was awarded a Royal Medal, made the president and honorary members of various societies and was given civil list pension of £200 per annum in 1878 (a small fortune then.) There’s also a statue of him in Manchester Town Hall. This bionic-brained boffin with big bushy Father Christmas beard and come-over hair style couldn’t use science to outwit death and died aged 70 at home not far from this grave.

 

The cemetery was stuffed with ornate and sometimes fanciful headstones. I was there for about thirty minutes and though walking over lots of dead people I did not see one live person. You would think that on a Sunday afternoon someone would come and visit a loved one wouldn’t you? The graves were all old, no boring modern generic glossy black headstones here. There were some flowers at the foot of this grave but I didn’t spot a patch of colour on any others. I guessed most people in this graveyard had died so long ago they were not known by anyone currently alive. I felt a bit sad. This is what life comes down to: when about four generations of your family have died you join the billions of people whose shadow once flickered on a corridor on history for a millisecond.

 

This man left a bit of a mark; there’s also a mark on the top of the headstone. Can you see the "772.55" - this is the amount of foot-pounds of work which must be expended at sea level to raise the temperature of one pound of water from 60 to 61 F. Oh yeah, even I can understand this.

 

Not far from his grave in the town is a Wetherspoon's pub called "The J. P. Joule" after Sale’s famous scientist. The family brewery which once stood on the edge of Sale is still trading well but has moved to Market Drayton.

 

 

Paper in hand looking for this famous scientist…

 

 

 

Note the marking…

 

 

 

Visiting one summer…