If the size of the text in this page is too small, please either turn javascript on or adjust the default text size of your browser.
MV Home Scientists & Discovery home
Home Chemicals Reactions dna Lightning Rainbows Light Gravity Radioactivity Scientists

Invisible Light

Maxwell's equations predicted invisible forms of light waves, like x-rays and radio waves.

Not only did Maxwell infer from his theory that light was a kind of electromagnetic wave, he also predicted that there were many other kinds of electromagnetic radiation, besides visible light.

Maxwell was right. In 1888, Heinrich Hertz discovered the existence of radio waves. This discovery led to an invention that has changed our world—the radio. However Hertz died aged 36, before Nikola Tesla and Guglielmo Marconi had realised this invention.

Radio waves are not the only other kind of electromagnetic wave. X-rays, microwaves, infra red, ultraviolet and gamma rays are all invisible forms of electromagnetic radiation.

We use many of these electromagnetic waves everyday. X-rays help doctors see inside our bodies, microwaves communicate between our mobile phones and satellites, and infra-red switches open our doors.

All of these kinds of waves are described by Maxwell's equations.


Heinrich Hertz
magnifyHeinrich Hertz


Old x-ray image
magnifyEarly x-ray image of a hand


Maxwell's equations
magnifyMaxwell's equations
© Museum Victoria Australia