Saturday, August 15, 2009

Hans Christian Ørsted: Who He Was, and Why You Owe Him

We missed Ørsted 232nd birthday yesterday, but still it was marked by Google, and the National Geographic has a brief article on why he played a significant role in our everyday lives.

So who was Ørsted, and what did he do to deserve the Internet's ultimate accolade?

Born in 1777 in Rudkøbing, Denmark, Ørsted established in 1820 that an electrical current coursing through a wire creates a magnetic field that can deflect a compass needle.

Ørsted's seemingly simple observation was nevertheless likely the first to link electricity and magnetism, explained physicist Paul Cadden-Zimansky of the U.S. National Magnetic Field Laboratory at the University of Florida.

It has been my unwritten mission to highlight the contribution of many physicists who are not household names. Yet, these people made such important contributions to our body of knowledge, some of them more than those household names, and probably made more impact on how we live today.


1 comment:

Canticle said...

Perhaps one of Orsteds greatest contributions, little mentioned recently, was philosophical; The first use and rationalisation of the term 'thought experiment', and the progress that this helped to allow for the philosophical advancement of science. 'Counterfactual' and other though experiment processes allowed the massive advances of the 1800's and early 1900's, including Relativity. This never clashed with evidence based science, (and only does now due to over simplistic views) as his most famous quote about reproducable experiment shows.