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James Thomson married Margaret Gardner in 1817 and, of their children, four boys and two girls survived infancy.
In the academic year 1839/1840, Thomson won the class prize in astronomy for his Essay on the figure of the Earth which showed an early facility for mathematical analysis and creativity.
William and his elder brother James were tutored at home by their father while the younger boys were tutored by their elder sisters.
James was intended to benefit from the major share of his father's encouragement, affection and financial support and was prepared for a career in engineering.
He was the first British scientist to be elevated to the House of Lords.
The title refers to the River Kelvin, which flows close by his laboratory at the University of Glasgow.
Throughout his life, he would work on the problems raised in the essay as a coping strategy during times of personal stress.