physics

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit and the Measurement of Temperature

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit and the Measurement of Temperature

On May 24, 1686, Dutch-German-Polish physicist, engineer, and glass blower Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was born. He is is best known for his invention of the mercury-in-glass thermometer in 1714, and for developing a temperature scale that is now named after him. Daniel Fahrenheit – Youth and Education Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit’s parents living in Gdansk, Poland, were Daniel (1656-1701) and Concordia Fahrenheit (1657-1701) (née Schumann, related Runge). The mother came from a well-known Gdañsk…
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Joseph-Louis Lagrange and the Celestial Mechanics

Joseph-Louis Lagrange and the Celestial Mechanics

On April 10, 1813, Italian mathematician and astronomer Joseph-Louis Lagrange passed away. Lagrange made significant contributions to the fields of analysis, number theory, and both classical and celestial mechanics. “I cannot say whether I will still be doing geometry ten years from now. It also seems to me that the mine has maybe already become too deep and unless one finds new veins it might have to be abandoned. Physics and chemistry…
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Josef Stefan’s – Black Bodies and Thermodynamic Temperature

Josef Stefan’s – Black Bodies and Thermodynamic Temperature

On March 24, 1835, Carinthian Slovene physicist, mathematician, and poet Josef Stefan was born. Stefan is best known for originating Stefan’s law in 1879, a physical power law stating that the total radiation from a black body is proportional to the fourth power of its thermodynamic temperature T. As long as you are not a physicist specialized in black body radiation, you probably have never heard of Josef Stefan. For me as a computer…
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Augustin-Jean Fresnel and the Wave Theory of Light

Augustin-Jean Fresnel and the Wave Theory of Light

On March 10, 1788, French civil engineer and physicist Augustin-Jean Fresnel was born. Augustin-Jean Fresnel‘s research in optics led to the almost unanimous acceptance of the wave theory of light, excluding any remnant of Newton‘s corpuscular theory, from the late 1830s until the end of the 19th century. “It’s not observation but theory that led me to this result that experience has confirmed afterwards.” – Augustin-Jean Fresnel, explaining how he was led to…
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Hans Christian Ørsted connecting Electricity and Magnetism

Hans Christian Ørsted connecting Electricity and Magnetism

On March 9, 1851, Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted passed away. Hans Christian Ørsted discovered that electric currents create magnetic fields, which was the first connection found between electricity and magnetism. He is still known today for Oersted‘s Law and the oersted (Oe), the cgs unit of magnetic H-field strength, is named after him. “The agreement of this law with nature will be better seen by the repetition of experiments than by…
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Otto Hahn – the Father of Nuclear Chemistry

Otto Hahn – the Father of Nuclear Chemistry

On March 8, 1879, German chemist and pioneer in the fields of radioactivity and radiochemistry Otto Hahn was born. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1944 for the discovery and the radiochemical proof of nuclear fission at the exclusion of his colleague Lise Meitner. He is referred to as the father of nuclear chemistry. “Usually, a discovery is not made in the easiest but on a complicated way; the simple cases…
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Ernst Mach and the eponymous Mach Number

Ernst Mach and the eponymous Mach Number

On February 18, 1838, Austrian physicist and philosopher Ernst Mach was born. Mach is noted for his contributions to physics such as study of shock waves. The ratio of one’s speed to that of sound is named the Mach number in his honor. As a philosopher of science, he was a major influence on logical positivism and American pragmatism. “There is no problem in all mathematics that cannot be solved by direct…
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Emil Wiechert – Mapping the Inner Structure of the Earth

Emil Wiechert – Mapping the Inner Structure of the Earth

On December 26, 1861, German geophysicist Emil Johann Wiechert was born. Wiechert made many contributions to both fields, including presenting the first verifiable model of a layered structure of the Earth and being among the first to discover the electron. He invented the “inverted pendulum” seismograph, (an improvement still incorporated in today’s instruments), with which he was able to detect some of the Earth‘s inner structure. He suggested the Earth has an inner,…
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The Celestial Mechanics of Anders Johan Lexell

The Celestial Mechanics of Anders Johan Lexell

On December 24, 1740, Finnish-Swedish astronomer, mathematician, and physicist Anders Johan Lexell was born. Lexell made important discoveries in polygonometry and celestial mechanics; the latter led to a comet named in his honour. La Grande Encyclopédie states that he was the prominent mathematician of his time who contributed to spherical trigonometry with new and interesting solutions, which he took as a basis for his research of comet and planet motion. His name…
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Nicholas Callan and the Induction Coil

Nicholas Callan and the Induction Coil

On December 22, 1799, Irish priest and physicist Nicholas Callan was born. Callan invented the induction coil (1836) before that of better-known Heinrich Ruhmkorff. Callan‘s coil was built using a horseshoe shaped iron bar wound with a secondary coil of thin insulated wire under a separate winding of thick insulated wire as the “primary” coil. Each time a battery‘s current through the “primary” coil was interrupted, a high voltage current was produced in…
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