Lord Rayleigh, a British physicist, was awarded the Nobel prize for physics in 1904 for his discovery (1894) of the inert elementary gas argon, in collaboration with sir William Ramsay. He was born near Maldon, Essex, on November 12, 1842, and educated at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he graduated senior wrangler (1865). As successor to James Clerk Maxwell he was head of the Cavendish Laboraty at Cambridge from 1879 to 1884, and in 1887 he became professor of natural philosophy in the Royal Institution of Great Britain. Elected (1873) a fellow of the Royal Society, he was president from 1905 to 1908.
His research covered almost the entire field of physics, including sound, wave theory, optics, color vision, electrodynamics, electromagnetism, the scattering of light, hydrodynamics, the flow of liquids, capillarity, viscosity, the density of gases, photography and elasticity, as well as electrical measurements and standards. His research on sound was embodied in his "Theory of Sound", and his other extensive studies in physics appeared in his "scientific papers". Rayleigh died on June 30, 1919 at Witham, Essex.