physics

Denis Papin and the Pressure Cooker

Denis Papin and the Pressure Cooker

On August 22, 1647, French physicist, mathematician and inventor Denis Papin was baptized [2]. He is best known for his pioneering invention of the steam digester, the forerunner of the steam engine, and of the pressure cooker. He never built an effective working engine of his own, but his idea was improved by others and led to the development of the steam engine, a major contribution to the Industrial Revolution. “Turning a small…
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Making Measurements accurate – Pierre Vernier and the Vernier Scale

Making Measurements accurate – Pierre Vernier and the Vernier Scale

On August 19, 1580, French mathematician and instrument inventor Pierre Vernier was born. He is best known for having invented the eponymous vernier scale, which enabled instruments to make more accurate linear or angular measurements. Pierre Vernier – Early Years Vernier was born in Ornans, Franche-Comté, in 1580. Being born in Franche-Comté (Free Country) meant that Vernier (and his father) were involved, not with the government of France but with that of…
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David Brewster and the Invention of the Kaleidoscope

David Brewster and the Invention of the Kaleidoscope

On July 10, 1817, Scottish physicist, mathematician, astronomer, inventor and writer Sir David Brewster received a patent for his kaleidoscope. “kaleidoscope” is derived from Ancient Greek and denotes something like “observation of beautiful forms.” It consists of a cylinder with mirrors containing loose, colored objects such as beads or pebbles and bits of glass. As the viewer looks into one end, light entering the other creates a colorful pattern, due to the…
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Archimedes lifted the world off their Hinges

Archimedes lifted the world off their Hinges

Without knowing his exact date of birth or even death, we focus today on one of the leading scientists in classical antiquity: the ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer Archimedes of Syracuse, who was born around 287 BC and died at about 212 BC. Only a few details of his life are known, but he is considered the greatest mathematician of antiquity and one of the greatest of all time. Archimedes…
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Macquorn Rankine and the Laws of Thermodynamics

Macquorn Rankine and the Laws of Thermodynamics

On July 5, 1820, Scottish mechanical engineer William John Macquorn Rankine was born. He was a founding contributor, with Rudolf Clausius and William Thomson (Lord Kelvin), to the science of thermodynamics, particularly focusing on the first of the three thermodynamic laws. “Discrepancy between theory and practice, which in sound physical and mechanical science is a delusion, has a real existence in the minds of men; and that fallacy, through rejected by their…
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Henrietta Swan Leavitt and the Light of the Cepheids

Henrietta Swan Leavitt and the Light of the Cepheids

On July 4, 1868, American astronomer Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born. She is best known for her discovery of the relation between the luminosity and the period of Cepheid variable stars. Based on her luminosity-period relation for Cepheids, Edwin Hubble was able to determine that the universe is expanding. Henrietta Swan Leavitt – Early Years Henrietta Swan Leavitt was born in Lancaster, Massachusetts, as daughter among seven children of Congregational church minister…
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Hero of Alexandria and his Amazing Experiments

Hero of Alexandria and his Amazing Experiments

Hero of Alexandria was a Greek mathematician and engineer who was active in his native city of Alexandria, Roman Egypt in the first century AD. He is considered the greatest experimenter of antiquity. Among his most famous inventions was a windwheel, constituting the earliest instance of wind harnessing on land, as well as the well recognized description of a steam-powered device called an aeolipile. The Problem with the Date A major difficulty…
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Jan Hendrik Oort and the Secrets of the Oort Cloud

Jan Hendrik Oort and the Secrets of the Oort Cloud

On April 28, 1900, Dutch physicist and astronomer Jan Hendrik Oort was born. One of the greatest astronomers of the 20th century, Oort made significant contributions to the understanding of the Milky Way and who was a pioneer in the field of radio astronomy. Oort determined that the Milky Way rotates and overturned the idea that the sun is at its center; he discovered mysterious invisible ‘dark matter‘ in 1932, as well…
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Pierre Curie – A Pioneer in Radioactivity

Pierre Curie – A Pioneer in Radioactivity

On 19 April 1906, French physicist and Nobel laureate Pierre Curie died in an accident. A pioneer in crystallography, magnetism, piezoelectricity and radioactivity, he co-jointly received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 with his wife, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, and Henri Becquerel, “in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel“.[9] “If one leaves a wooden or cardboard box containing a…
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Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Quantum Electrodynamics

Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Quantum Electrodynamics

On March 31, 1906, Japanese physicist and Nobel laureate Sin-Itiro Tomonaga was born. He was influential in the development of quantum electrodynamics, work for which he was jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965 along with Richard Feynman and Julian Schwinger. Tomonaga was one of the first to apply quantum theory to subatomic particles with very high energies. “Nature was not satisfied by a simple point charge but required a…
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