# Kelvin

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The kelvin, symbol K, is the primary unit of temperature in the International System of Units (SI), used alongside its prefixed forms and the degree Celsius.[1][2][3][4] It is named after the Belfast-born and University of Glasgow-based engineer and physicist William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin (1824–1907). The Kelvin scale is an absolute thermodynamic temperature scale, meaning it uses absolute zero as its zero point.[2][5]

Quick facts: Kelvin, General information, Unit system, Uni...
Kelvin
Thermometer with markings in degrees Celsius and in kelvins
General information
Unit systemSI
Unit oftemperature
SymbolK
Named afterWilliam Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin
Conversions
x K in ...... corresponds to ...
Celsius   (x − 273.15) °C
Fahrenheit   (1.8x − 459.67) °F
Rankine   1.8x °Ra
Close

Historically, the Kelvin scale was developed by shifting the starting point of the much-older Celsius scale down from the melting point of ice to absolute zero, and its increments still closely approximate the historic definition of a degree Celsius, but since 2019 the scale has been defined by fixing the Boltzmann constant k to be exactly 1.380649×10−23 J⋅K−1.[1] Hence, one kelvin is equal to a change in the thermodynamic temperature T that results in a change of thermal energy kT by 1.380649×10−23 J. The temperature in degree Celsius is now defined as the temperature in kelvins minus 273.15,[2] meaning that a change or difference in temperature has the same value when expressed in degrees Celsius as in kelvins, and that 0 °C is equal to 273.15 K.

The kelvin is the primary unit of temperature for engineering and the physical sciences, while in most countries Celsius remains the dominant scale outside of these fields. In the United States, outside of the physical sciences the Fahrenheit scale predominates, with the kelvin or Rankine scale employed for absolute temperature. Those are defined using the kelvin.[6][7]

According to SI convention, the kelvin is never referred to nor written as a degree. The word kelvin is not capitalised when used as a unit, but is pluralised as appropriate. The unit symbol K is a capital letter. For example, "It is 50 degrees Fahrenheit outside" vs "It is 10 degrees Celsius outside" vs "It is 283 kelvins outside".[8] It is common convention to capitalize Kelvin when referring to the Kelvin scale.[9]