150 years of Maxwell's equations

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Science  10 Jul 2015:
Vol. 349, Issue 6244, pp. 136-137
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa7224

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On page 499 of his 1865 paper (1), James Clerk Maxwell wrote, “The agreement of the results seems to show that light and magnetism are affections of the same substance, and that light is an electromagnetic disturbance propagated through the field according to electromagnetic laws.” With that knowledge, he changed the world forever. In the span of 150 years since his celebrated paper, numerous scientific discoveries and technological innovations have originated from Maxwell's equations. Electromagnetic and optical waves can be manipulated, tailored, and controlled by means of materials, and consequently, during the past one and a half centuries, materials science and engineering has always played the key roles in taming these waves for the purpose of inventing new functional devices. Early examples include radio-frequency antennas, lenses and mirrors, microwave waveguides, optical fibers, and telegraph transmission lines, to name just a few. Recent developments in nanoscience and nanotechnology, materials science and technology, and condensed matter physics has made it possible to conceive materials and structures with atomic-level controllability and with unprecedented properties not otherwise present in naturally available materials. These developments have opened doors to numerous opportunities to shape and sculpt light at the nano-, micro- and mesoscales in a desired fashion.