James Prescott Joule

In the north choir aisle of Westminster Abbey is a white marble memorial to James Prescott Joule, physicist. The inscription reads:

This tablet is here placed, near the graves of Newton, Herschel and Darwin, by those who in many lands have united to perpetuate the memory of James Prescott Joule F.R.S., of Manchester, in recognition of services rendered to science, in establishing the law of the conservation of energy, and determining the mechanical equivalent of heat. Born 24th December 1818, Died 11th October 1889.

He was born in Salford near Manchester, a son of Benjamin Joule and his wife Alice (Prescott). James and his brother Benjamin studied under chemist John Dalton and he went on to study electricity and electro-magnetism, working closely with Lord Kelvin.  His first publication was 'Description of an electro-magnetic engine' in 1838. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. His wife was Amelia Grimes and they had a son Benjamin and a daughter Alice. James is buried at Brooklands cemetery in Sale, Cheshire. A statue of him stands in Manchester Town Hall.

Further reading:

Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

D.S.L. Cardwell, James Joule, a biography, 1989

J.P.Joule, The scientific papers of James Prescott Joule, 2 vols. 1884-7, reprinted 1963.

O.Reynolds, Memoir of James Prescott Joule, 1892


24th December 1818


11th October 1889


Scientist; physicist


North Choir Aisle

Memorial Type


Material Type


James Prescott Joule
James Prescott Joule
James Prescott Joule
James Prescott Joule memorial

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