National Records of Scotland

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William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs (1824-1907)

William Thomson, Baron Kelvin of Largs (1824-1907)

Mathematician and physicist

William Thomson was born on 26 June 1826 in Belfast. The family moved to Glasgow in 1832. He studied there, and at Cambridge and Paris, before being elected professor of natural philosophy at the University of Glasgow in 1846, a post he held until his retirement in 1899. Lord Kelvin received many honours for his work on thermodynamics, energy and absolute measurement. He was also involved in the project which laid a telegraph cable across the Atlantic and the setting up of an instrument-making company. The SI base unit of measurement for thermodynamic temperature was named the kelvin (K) in his honour.

1851 census

In 1851 William Thomson, 26, was living at College Buildings, High Street, Glasgow, with his brother, his aunt, a visitor and two servants. The census record gives his profession as Master of Arts, Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Glasgow and his birthplace as Belfast, Ireland.

1851 census record for William Thomson

1851 census record for William Thomson (41 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1851/644-1/208, page 1

Marriage in 1852

William Thomson, Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Glasgow married Margaret Crum on 14 September 1852. The entry in the Old Parish Register (OPR) for Glasgow (his parish), dated 12 September, gives her father's name as Walter Crum of Thornliebank and the minister who married them as Dr John Brown, United Presbyterian minister in Edinburgh.

Marriage entry for William Thomson - Glasgow

Proclamation of banns and marriage entry for William Thomson in the OPR for Glasgow (40 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 644-1/44, page 220

A second entry in the Old Parish Register for Eastwood (her parish) gives his name as James Thomson (and is therefore indexed as James). It shows that they were registered for proclamation of banns on 11 September and were married at Thornliebank by the Reverend John Brown, minister of Broughton Place in Edinburgh.

Marriage entry for William Thomson - Eastwood

Proclamation of banns and marriage entry for William Thomson in the OPR for Eastwood (28 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, OPR 562/5, page 144

1871 and 1891 censuses

In 1871 William Thomson, 46, visitor and son-in-law to the head of the household, was staying at Auchinearn. The census record for the district of Largs in Ayrshire gives his profession as Knight LLD FRS (Fellow of the Royal Society) FRSE (Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh) Professor of National Philosophy, University of Glasgow.

1871 census record for William Thomson

1871 census record for William Thomson (34 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1871/602/6, page 4

In 1891 William Thomson, 66, was living at '11 University' in Glasgow with his second wife, Frances A Thomson, who was born in Madeira and a British subject. The household also included six servants.

1891 census record for William Thomson

1891 census record for William Thomson (36 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1891/646-2/34, page 9

Death in 1907

William Thomson Baron Kelvin of Largs, Emeritus Professor of Natural Philosophy in the University of Glasgow, died on 17 December 1907 aged 83 years. The entry in the statutory register of deaths for the parish of Largs records the place of death as his home at Netherhall. It provides the names of his father, James Thomson, professor of mathematics, of his mother, Margaret Gardner, and of his second wife, Frances Anna Blandy.

Death entry for William Thomson

Death entry for William Thomson (46 KB jpeg)
National Records of Scotland, 1907/602-1/76