Blupete's Biography Page

The Scientists:

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Ampere, Andre Marie (1775-1836):
Ampere, a teacher at Paris, has his permanent place in the history of science because it was his name that was given to the unit by which we measure electrical current. He had, of course, an interest in electricity; in addition, Ampere made similar investigations as did Avogadro into the nature of matter in its gaseous state.
Alfven, Hannes Olof Gosta (1908- ):
What I know of Alfven is that he was born in Sweden in 1908; and, while at the Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, in 1970, he won the Nobel Prize in Physics "for fundamental work and discoveries in magneto-hydrodynamics with fruitful applications in different parts of plasma physics." I first bumped into Alfven when I picked up a small paperback book of his, which I very much enjoyed, Atom, Man, and the Universe, The Long Chain of Complications (San Francisco: Freeman, 1969). It was written simply and plainly for a general audience, and enables us "to view ourselves both as a part of the atomic microcosm and as part of the universe that dwarfs us."
Archimedes (287-212 B.C.).
Forever to be known for the Archimedean principle: "a body plunged in a fluid loses as much weight as ..."
Avogadro, Armedeo (1776-1856):
The Italiian scientist after which is named the Avogadro's Law, viz,. "equal volumes of different gases, pressure and temperature being equal, contain the same number of molecules"; or, "equal volumes of gases or vapours contain the same number of molecules."

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Bernouilli, Daniel (1700-82):
Daniel Bernouilli was a member of a Swiss family that had more than its share of mathematicians and scientists. Daniel's father, Jean Bernouilli (1667-1748), was a professor at Groningen (1695) and Basel (1705). Then there was Jean's brother, Jacques Bernouilli (1654-1705), who, in 1698 published his work on differential calculus (he was the one who first used the term integral). Certain of Jean's sons went on to teach at a number of universities located throughout Europe. The son we concern ourselves here with, is, Daniel Bernouilli. Daniel studied medicine and mathematics, but, eventually settled into teaching physics at Basel. He advanced our understanding of the physical world in a number of areas; but, it is in the kinetic theory of gases for which he is most remembered, particularly: the Bernouilli’s principle. It might be simply stated, as follows: "as the velocity of a fluid increases, its pressure decreases." Thus it was Daniel Bernouilli who showed that "the total energy in a steadily flowing fluid system is a constant along the flow path. Because the total energy is constant, an increase in the fluid’s speed must therefore be matched by a decrease in its pressure." The Bernouilli’s principle explains why a fixed wing airplane, once its moving in the air, and, because of the shape of the wing, will (usually) stay in the air. The Bernouilli’s principle might also be demonstrated by looking to a simple instrument to measure wind velocity. The instrument, in its simplest form, is a tube with a ball in it with the tube (the down side end) being closed and the other being open. When the wind blows over the top of the tube, a slight vacuum is created in the tube and the ball is sucked up. The stronger the wind, the greater the suction and the further up the tube the ball will travel.
Bohr, Niels Henrik David (1885-1962):
While at Copenhagen University, Bohr, in 1922, won the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his services in the investigation of the structure of atoms and of the radiation emanating from them."
Born, Max (1882-1970):
While at Edinburgh University, Born, in 1954, won the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his fundamental research in quantum mechanics, especially for his statistical interpretation of the wavefunction."
Boyle, Robert (1627-91):
Robert Boyle was an Anglo-Irish physicist and chemist. Often referred to as the father of modern chemistry. It was Boyle who separated chemistry from alchemy and gave the first precise definitions of a chemical element, a chemical reaction, and chemical analysis. He invented a vacuum pump and used it in the discovery of what has become known as Boyle's law. The principles of Boyle's Law were published in 1662. It goes like this: the volume of a given mass of gas (the temperature being constant) varies inversely as the pressure; or, that the pressure and volume of a gas are inversely proportional. (On the continent it is known as Mariotte's Law; see Edme Mariotte.)
Brahe, Tycho (1546-1601):
Brache was the Danish astronomer who had rejected the Copernican theory in favour of that of Ptolemy; and who, having moved to Germany had Johann Kepler as an assistant.
Bruno, Giordano (1548-1600).
The scientist, which, for his beliefs, the church burnt at the stake.

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Cavendish, Henry (1731-1810).
The eccentric scientist, after whom the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, England, is named.
Charles, Jacques Alexander César (1746-1823):
The French scientist after which is named the Charles's Law which made the connection that a rise in temperature expanded the volume of gas. Charles was to become one of the first balloonists.
Clerk-Maxwell, James (1831-79):
Clerk-Maxwell was born in Edinburgh. As a boy of fifteen he devised a method of drawing certain oval curves, a method which was written up by the Royal Society of Edinburgh. He attended Cambridge and graduated there as second wrangler. He went into teaching physics; first at Aberdeen (1856) then at London (1860). In 1871, Clerk-Maxwell came back to his Alma Mater, Cambridge, there to become the first professor of experimental Physics. In 1873, he published his great work, Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism. Clerk-Maxwell's greatest work was his initial contribution to electromagnetic radiation.
Copernicus, Nicolas (1473-1543).
"Of all discoveries and opinions, none may have exerted a greater effect on the human spirit than the doctrine of Copernicus."
Crick, Francis Harry Compton (b.1916):
Crick was born in 1916, at Northampton, England. He studied physics at University College, London, obtaining a science degree in 1937. During the war he worked as a scientist for the British Admiralty. In 1947 Crick left the Admiralty and went off to Cambridge to study biology. In 1954, he obtained a Ph.D.; his thesis was entitled "X-ray diffraction: polypeptides and proteins." A critical influence in Crick's career was his friendship, beginning in 1951, with James Watson; this relationship, in 1953, led to the proposal of the double-helical structure for DNA (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid). In 1976, Crick joined the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in California, where he became involved in studies on how the brain functions. Crick came to believe that the workings of the brain, as complicated as it surely is, is, however, discoverable. Crick was to conclude that in time a scientific model of consciousness will come about. He writes in his 1994 book, The Astonishing Hypothesis: The Scientific Search for the Soul, "Your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more that the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules."
Curie, Pierre (1859-1906) & Marie (1867-1934):
The Curies, in 1903, won the Nobel Prize in Physics "in recognition of the extraordinary services they have rendered by their joint researches on the radiation phenomena discovered by Professor Henri Becquerel."

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Darwin, Charles (1809-82):
Darwin struck upon the theory of evolution, viz., that all things, reacting to natural laws that we do not fully understand, have slowly evolved over an unimaginable amount of time, into what they are today. This natural law is a process which Darwin called natural selection. Darwin was to hit on a theory, highly supported by real evidence, which meant that we no longer had to subscribe to the notion that every species had been created, by some unknowable means, whole, and then, to have come through the ages unchanged.
Davy, Sir Humphry (1778-1829):
Davy's father was a woodcarver. At a young age, Davy was sent to apprentice with a surgeon in his hometown, Penzance. Such an apprenticeship let Davy to conduct chemical experiments and by nineteen years of age he was carrying out some very serious chemical studies. By age 21 he wrote Researches, Chemical and Philosophical which led to his appointment to the Royal Institution. During the early part of the 19th century, Davy was conducting experiments which led to his conclusions that many common substances were formed by the combination of oxygen and metals. This discovery further led Davy to decompose certain substances, and, in the process was to discover metals not commonly found in their pure state, such metals as: potassium, sodium, barium, strontium, etc. In 1812, Davy was knighted. In 1815, Sir Humphry invented the safety lamp, his most famous invention, which undoubtedly has saved numerous lives of those who worked in the coal mines. During the last of his years, Sir Humphry carried out studies in electromagnetism.
Dulong, Pierre Louis (1785-1838):
The French chemist who, with Petit, became know for the Dulong and Petit's Law (1819), viz., that "all the chemical elements have approximately the same atomic heat"; or, "the same quantity of heat is needed to heat an atom of all simple bodies to the same extent." In 1813, Dulong was to describe the explosive properties of nitrogen trichloride.

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Einstein, Albert (1879-1955):
Einstein thought in another dimension, unknown and practicably unknowable to most of us. We may of heard of his Theory of Relativity and his Electromagnetic Theory of Light; but few of us will ever understand them.
Euclid was a Greek mathematician; he taught in Alexandria, circa 300 BC. There is evidence that he wrote a number of works, but they have been lost to us. His work, Elements, however, was found, the Arabian mathematicians having carefully preserved it for the rest of us, as western man struggled through his dark ages; it was translated from Arabic into Latin, in 1482. The Elements is yet used today in schools, widely so, as a fundamental text book in geometry.

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Faraday, Michael (1791-1867):
Coming from a poor family, Faraday was apprenticed at the age of fourteen to a bookbinder: "he was allowed to spend as much time reading books as he did binding them." One of the books he found himself regularly binding was the Encyclopedia Britannica. After six years of book binding, to his very good fortune, Faraday, at the age of 21, was introduced to Sir Humphrey Davy; he went and joined Davy at the Royal Institution as Davy's personal assistant. (A story describing the relationship of Davy and Faraday would prove to be a mighty interesting one.) At any rate, Faraday led a very illustrious career as a scientist. (In those days they called themselves natural philosophers; and indeed, Faraday was a philosopher: his researches are pointed to as illustrative of the power of the inductive philosophy.) Though there developed quite a dispute over the point, Faraday is generally credited with the discovery of electromagnetic induction (1821), and described certain elements and chemical compounds such as chlorine and benzene.
Fermi, Fermi (1901-54):
While at Rome University, in 1938, Fermi won the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his demonstrations of the existence of new radioactive elements produced by neutron irradiation, and for his related discovery of nuclear reactions brought about by slow neutrons."

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Galen (c130-201):
Galen was a Greek physician. He was a careful dissector of animals. He was a voluminous writer and gathered up all the medical knowledge of his times. It is to Galen that we give credit of being, a physician who was to first give a diagnosis by the taking of a person's pulse.
Galileo (1564-1642).
Galileo -- astronomer, mathematician and physicist -- dwelt, not on the useless question, why do things happen? but, how do things happen?
Gilbert, William (1544-1603)
Gilbert is famous for his original studies in magnetism. "He passionately rejected both the prevailing Aristotelian philosophy and the Scholastic method of university teaching." (See Aquinas.) Gilbert "was one of the originators of the term 'electricity.'"
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832).
Though a philosopher, Goethe was a scientist carrying out work in biology and in optics. Goethe looked at things in a different manner, different than those thinkers up to his time; "he always attempted to see the individual phenomenon as part of an organic, developing whole ..."
Gould, Stephen Jay (1941-2002)
Of course, one should read Prof. Gould's works, as follows: Ever Since Darwin (1973), The Panda's Thumb (1980), Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes (1983), The Flamingo's Smile (1985), Wonderful Life, and An Urchin in the Storm (1987). Gould's publisher is Norton of New York. As will come as no surprise, Gould's discipline was biology.

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Halley, Edmund (1656-1742).
English mathematician and astronomer.
Harvey, William (1578-1657):
The major difference between Harvey and his predecessors, was -- methodology. Harvey determined to start out, so to speak, with a blank fact book and distinguished it from his theory book. Nothing would go down in his fact book unless tested and would readily remove it if it did not bear out on a re-test.
Hawking, Stephen W.:
Of course, one should read Prof. Hawking's work, A Brief History of Time (Bantam).
Haeckel, Ernest (1834-1919):
Haeckel is known as "Germany's Darwin." He studied medicine but ended up as a zoologist at the University of Jena, where he spent his life's career. "Unlike the always cautious Darwin, who did not speculate on the origin of life or the nature of reality, Haeckel never hesitated boldly to consider the philosophical implications and theological consequences of taking the fact of organic evolution seriously." Like Thomas Huxley "Haeckel saw only quantitative, not qualitative, differences between the living great apes and the rational human animal." Haeckel made a major literary contribution, when, in 1899, he brought out his book, The Riddle of the Universe; "In a scathing attack on religious dogma, Haeckel examines, from a monistic standpoint, the place of mankind within the dynamic, eternal, and infinite universe." My copy is a recent print which was translated by Joseph McCabe with intro by H. James Birx (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1992).
Haldane, J. B. S. (1892-1964):
A British biologist, in 1927, Haldane collaborated with J. S. Huxley in the work Animal Biology. Haldane was asked once whether, considering his life long study of this earth's life forms, if he was able to conclude what the nature of the Creator might be; it is reported (Stephen Jay Gould) that he replied, "An inordinate fondness for beetles."
Herschel, Sir William (1738-1822):
Born in Hanover, Herschel started out as an oboist in the Hanoverian Guards band; and, as such, made a visit to England. Of course, a fellow Hanoverian, George II (1683-1760) was on the throne of England and Hanoverians were generally welcomed in England. Taking a position as an organist and music teacher at Bath -- the center in England of all that was socially correct -- Herschel was to make England his home. He developed an interest in astronomy. He made, 1773-74, a reflecting telescope; and, then, proceeded to discover the planet Uranus. In 1782, Herschel was appointed as George III's private astronomer. Herschel "greatly added to our knowledge of the solar system, of the milky way, and of the nebulae' he discovered, besides Uranus and two of its satellites, two satellites of Saturn, the rotation of Saturn's ring, the period of rotation of Saturn, and the motions of the binary stars; and made a famous catalogue of double stars, etc." (Chambers.)
Herschel, Sir John Frederick William (1792-1871):
This Herschel was to extend the astronomical work of his father. He was educated at Eaton and St. John's, Cambridge. He was to discover numerous nebulae and was one of the first to use photography in his research.
Hertz, Gustav Ludwig: (1887-1975):
While at Halle University, in 1925, Hertz won the Nobel Prize in Physics "for his discovery of the laws governing the impact of an electron upon an atom."
Hipparchus (160-125 B.C.):
A Greek astronomer who carried out his observations at Rhodes. "He discovered the precession of the equinoxes and the eccentricity of the sun's path, determined the length of the solar year, estimated the distances of the sun and moon from the earth, drew up a catalogue of 1080 stars, fixed the geographical position of places by latitude and longitude, and invented trigonometry." (Chambers.)
Hippocrates (c460-377B.C.):
Hippocrates, a Greek, is the most celebrated physician of antiquity. He believed that "the four fluids or humours of the body (blood, phlegm, yellow bile and black bile) are the primary seats of disease." But, it is the ethics of Hippocrates to which, for many years, the medical doctor subscribed by the taking of the Hippocrates Oath.
Hooke, Robert (1635-1703):
Coming from the Isle of Wight, Hooke went to Oxford (Christ Church). He was to be a student of Robert Boyle's. In 1662, he became curator of experiments to the Royal Society and, in 1677, its secretary. In 1665 he published Micrographia a book on botany, chemistry, etc. Hooke anticipated the steam engine by describing that bodies of material can be extended or compressed, depending on their elasticity: Hooke's Law. It seems he realized that man might be able to see beyond the edges if only he had better tools; he therefore set out to invent them. To Hooke is contributed, in a material way, the invention of the quadrant, Gregorian telescope and microscope. It therefore should not come as a surprise that many discoveries are contributed to Robert Hooke.
Huxley, Sir Julian (1887-1975):
Humanist, atheist and science popularizer, Julian Huxley, a Professor of Zoology, was the brother of Aldous Huxley and grandson of Thomas H. Huxley. Among his works by and about him: Essays of a Biologist (1923) (Pelican, 1939) Ants (1930) (New York, Cape & Ballou, 1932), Evolution: The Modern Synthesis (London: Allen & Unwin, 1942), New Bottles for New Wine (London: Chatto & Windus, 1957), Evolution in Action (Signet, 1964), Evolutionary Humanism (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus, 1992), Memories I (1970) & Memories II (1973) (New York: Harper & Row).
Huxley, Thomas H. (1825-1895):
English biologist and teacher, Huxley was a defender of Darwin ("Darwin's Bulldog"). "There are those who hold the name of Professor Huxley as synonymous with irreverence and atheism. Plato's [work] was so held, and Galileo's and Descartes', and Newton's, and Faraday's. There can be no greater mistake. No man has greater reverence for the Bible than Huxley. No one had more acquaintance with the text of scripture. He believes there is definite government of the universe; that pleasures and pains are distributed in accordance with law; and that the certain proportion of evil woven up in the life even of worms will help the man who thinks to bear his own share with courage." (Tyndall's Fragments, advertisement.)
Huygens, Christiaan (1629-93):
The Dutch physicist who was to make, in 1657, on the suggestion of Galileo, the pendulum clock. In 1655, he discovered the ring and fourth satellite of Saturn. Huygens had a particular interest in the nature of light and was to propound a theory that it was undulating, thus striking upon, "wave theory."

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Kelvin, William Thomson, Lord (1824-1907):
Lord Kelvin was a Scottish mathematician and physicist who is noted for the early search carried out in static electricity and magnetic phenomena. Kelvin's research in the transmission of electric current was to lead to the laying down of submarine cables, the ultimate one being that laid down on the floor of the Atlantic. (It was for this work that Kelvin was knighted in 1866.) Lord Kelvin's work went beyond pure science; he built instruments for his work shop, such as the ampère-meter, the volt-meter and the watt-meter.
Kepler, Johann (1571-1630):
German astronomer and mathematics teacher. Kepler studied under Tycho Brahe. Kepler was to formulate laws that "formed the groundwork of Newton's discoveries, and are the starting point of modern astronomy. It is for his "Third Law" for which he is most known, viz., "the square of a planet's periodic time is proportional to the cube of its mean distance from the sun."
Kline, Morris (1908- ):
Kline was a professor of New York University; his work, a most enjoyable read, is, Mathematics and the Search for Knowledge (Oxford University Press, 1985). Also, a larger and more technical work, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern Times (1972), in three volumes (Oxford University, 1990).

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Leakey, Louis Semour Bazett (1903-72):
Louis Leakey was the British anthropologist, who, in East Africa, was to discover the fossilized remains of a number of "pre-men." For an enjoyable read, and, an insight in the work of the Leakey family; read Richard E. Leakey's book, The Making of Mankind (1981) (New York: Dutton, 1981).
Leslie, Sir John (1766-1832):
Sir John was a Professor of Natural Philosophy (as Science was known in those days) in the University of Edinburgh. In 1805 he obtained the chair of mathematics. Involved in experimental research, Sir John, in 1804, wrote Inquiry into Heat, and, in 1810, he "succeeded in freezing water under the air pump." He invented such instruments as the differential thermometer, the hygrometer, the photometer, the pyroscope, the atmometer and the aethrioscope. Sir John travelled both on the continent and in America and, apparently, he had an interest in the frigid parts of our northern hemisphere.
Lorenz, Konrod (1903- ):
Austrian ethologist (study of animal behaviour under natural conditions), proponent of Darwin's theories, Nobel Prize winner in 1973, Lorenz "displays style, humour, an engaging personality, and an awareness of deep issues of epistemology and society."
Lyell, Sir Charles (1797-1875):
Lyell was a Scottish geologist. He was born at Kinnordy, Fortfarshire. He graduated from Oxford (Exeter College). While he studied law and was called to the bar, Lyell turned from the law and spent his life in geological investigations. His great work, Principles of Geology; or Modern Changes of the Earth and Its Inhabitants was first published in January, 1830. Chambers writes that Lyell's Principles of Geology "may be ranked next after Darwin's The Origin of Species among the books which exercised the most powerful influence on scientific thought in the 19th century." (In spite preeminent scientific thinking, Lyell went to his grave a hold out against the notion of human evolution.) By way of commentary and in connection on this short note on Lyell: In the early 19th century there broke out a geological dispute between the Neptunians and Vulcanists. The larger school, the Neptunians were of the view that granite had crystallized from a universal ocean that covered the earth in its original chaotic state; on the other hand the Vulcanists were convinced that granite was of volcanic origin. This became a very bitter conflict between the rival sects. How to resolve it? Not by vicious attacks on one and other. What a new generation of earth historians determined was that, instead of engaging in fruitless argument over 'fanciful' theories, geology could have no proper business but to go out and find facts - specimens, for example, and fossils and geological formations. Such an approach, as was carried out by Lyell, resulted in a new view, an "uniformitarian view," according to which the geographical record is an accumulation of ordinary and observable natural processes acting over a very long time.

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Mariotte, Edme (1620-84):
Mariotte was a French physicist who "wrote on percussion, air and its pressure, the movements of fluid bodies and of pendulums, colours, etc." (Chambers.)
Maxwell, James Clerk (1831-1879):
Maxwell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. As was scientist in the field of mathematical physics. He formulated a theory of electromagnetic radiation, which, as the Wikipedia states, brought "together for the first time electricity, magnetism, and light as different manifestations of the same phenomenon." His theory was, in time, to bring forth the existence of radio waves. Maxwell as a scientist, ranks with the likes of Newton and Einstein.
Mendel, Gregor Johann (1822-84):
Mendel was an Austrian biologist, who, through his remarkable researches on hybridity in plants, established that there does exist, in living things, dominant and recessive characters (Mendelian Law). "His principle of factorial inheritance and the quantitative investigation of single characters have been the basis of modern genetics." (Chambers.) From this theory of heredity came the theory of organic evolution, which in turn led to an understanding of "the language of the bees, the homing of birds and the behaviour of apes, - leading towards a comprehensive picture of the evolution, the individual development and the working of mind." (Sir Julian Huxley, New Bottles, preface.]
Michelson, Albert Abraham (1852-1931):
Born in Germany, Michelson immigrted to American, by 1892 he settled into an academic life at the University of Chicago as a professor of Physics. He was to become the first American scientist to win a Nobel prize. Michelson invented the interferometer, being an instrument to measure the interference of waves (e.g. of light) from a common source. Chambers reports that it was Michelson's work that set Einstein out on his work which developed into the theory of relativity.

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Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1727).
Newton was a mathematician and natural philosopher (physicist). Newton's principle achievement was that he went beyond the theoretical; he did experimental work. Though he built on the work of Copernicus, Kepler, and Galileo; it is to Newton to whom we point as the person primarily responsible for the mechanistic theory which accounts for the perceivable universe.

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Oppenheimer, J. Robert (1904-67):
Oppenheimer was born in New York and studied at Harvard and at universities, both in England (Cambridge) and on the continent. Becoming a university professor in California, he studied "electron-positron pairs, cosmic ray theory and worked on deuteron reactions." During the war years he was chosen to head up the American effort to bring into being an earth bound thermonuclear explosion, which of course, with the assistance of a number of brilliant scientists in the area, such as Edward Teller, was to come about; and which, contributed to the bringing about the end of world war. In 1945, Oppenheimer, wondering and bothered by his work, resigned from the Los Alamos Laboratory. He was to argue, in respect to atomic energy, there should be joint control (United States and Russia). He fell out of favor, and, in 1953, "he was suspended from secret nuclear research by a security board review board."

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Pascal, Blaise (1623-62):
Pascal was a French mathematician and man-of-letters. Pascal's mother died early and he was left, at the age of seven, to be with his father and his sister, Jacqueline (Jacqueline was to enter a Jansenist convent). His father, high up in the French judiciary, undertook to personally see to his son's education. Pascal, even as a beginning youth, was a brilliant light in the intellectual community as then existed in France; many could not believe that such brilliant insights could come from such a mere youth. Up through the years, until 1654, Pascal divided his life between mathematics and the social life of Paris. Pascal was credited with the invention of the barometer and certain mathematical formulations which "heralded the invention of the differential calculus." It was, in 1654, that Pascal was to have a mental crises and broke completely with his circle, and, claiming to have had religious revelations, went to join and live with his sister in the religious community in which she had belonged. He was to continue with his writing, but it now took a distinct religious tone; often, given his position as a Jansenist, a faction of the Roman catholic church, against the position and the teachings of the Jesuits."
Planck, Max (1858-1947):
Max Planck, born in Kiel, Germany, at the tender age of 16, entered the University of Munich; there he studied physics. In later life he gave his reason for choosing physics: "The outside world is something independent from man, something absolute, and the quest for the laws which apply to this absolute appeared to me as the most sublime scientific pursuit in life." At the age of 21 years, Planck received a doctorate; his thesis being on the second law of thermodynamics. He then went on to teach, first at the University of Munich (1880), then University of Berlin (1889) where he stayed for 38 years until he retired in 1927. It was in 1900 that Planck set out a formula now known as Planck's radiation formula, which formula, effectively renounced classical physics and introduced the quanta of energy. At first the theory met resistance, but, due to the successful work of Niels Bohr, the theory was to become generally accepted. Planck received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1918. (Interestingly, we read where Planck remained in Germany during World War II during which time he was to suffer from personal tragedy: his son, Erwin, was executed for plotting to assassinate Hitler; his house in Berlin was burned down in an air raid; and, in 1945, another son was executed after he was declared to be guilty of complicity in a plot to kill Hitler.)
Petit, Alexis Thérèse (1791-1820):
See Pierre Louis Dulong.
Priestley, Joseph (1733-1804):
Priestley was an English presbyterian minister and chemist. He was, we see in Chambers, "a pioneer in the chemistry of gases, and one of the discovers of oxygen." He met Benjamin Franklin who was to supply Priestley with books which assisted him in the writing of, in 1767, The History of Electricity. In 1772 he was appointed to the French Academy of Sciences; and, in 1780, the St. Petersburg Academy. Priestley, as a minister (dissenting) was much concerned with the human condition and what if any steps that might be taken to relieve suffering, and, was to express his views in his writings: he wrote a reply to Burke's Reflections on the French Revolution.
Ptolemy (90-168):
See under Copernicus.

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Roentgen (Röntgen), Wilhelm Conrad (1845-1923):
While at Munich University, in 1901, Roentgen won the first Nobel Prize in Physics "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays subsequently named after him."
Rosse, William Parsons, Third Earl of ... (1800-67):
Born in York, Rosse was to attend Magdalen College, Oxford. "He experimented in fluid lenses, and made great improvements in casting specula for the reflecting telescope." Rosse was to pay a £30,000, a huge sum for the day, to build a 58 foot long reflecting telescope in the park of his home in Ireland, Birr castle.
Rutherford, Ernest (1871-1937).
Rutherford was the greatest of the pioneers of subatomic physics; he "led us to the confines of knowledge in respect of the ultimate structure and constitution of matter."

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Teller, Edward (1908- ):
Hungarian born physicist, who studied under Niels Bohr at Copenhagen. Leaving Germany in 1933, Teller was to lecture both at London and at Washington (1935). During the war years he was to join Oppenheimer's theoretical study group at Berkeley, California. Teller was instrumental in the development of the first earthbound thermonuclear explosion. He repudiated, as a scientist, any moral implications of his work, indeed, it is reported (Chambers) that he thought that but for Oppenheimer's qualms, the United Sates might of had the hydrogen bomb by 1947.
Torricelli, Evangelista (1608-47):
Italian scientist who was to become a helper (amanuensis) to Galileo. Upon Galileo' death, in 1642, Torricelli was to take a position at the Florentine Academy. We will always know him for the invention of the "Torricellian tube." It was on account of Torricelli's experiments that we were to come to better under stand the nature of atmospheric pressure, for example, it was Torricelli who first determined that water will not rise above 33 feet in a suction pump. So, too, it is to Torricelli that we owe the first statement of the principles of hydro mechanics. His efforts also led to considerable improvements to both the telescope and microscope. First and foremost, however, Torricelli was a mathematician and he is credited with "several mathematical discoveries."
Tyndall, John (1820-93):
Tyndall is tagged as an English physicist, lecturer and writer. He collaborated with T. H. Huxley in certain of his scientific studies. A classic, is Tyndall's book, Fragments of Science. I am fortunate, in addition, to have, in my library, Tyndall's Six Lectures on Light (London: Longmans, Green; 1885).

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Venturi, Giovanni Battista (1746-1822):
Italian physicist, who determined that "a short constriction in a tube between two longer tapered portions that are usually of unequal length but terminate with the same diameter, so that there is a drop in pressure in a fluid flowing through the constriction which may be used to determine the rate of flow or used as a source of suction; also devices having this form and the effect involved." (OED.) Another way of putting it, is, that the speed of a fluid flowing through a tube can be accelerated by introducing a tapering constriction into the flow path. Bernouilli’s principle tells us that Venturi’s constriction will also lower the fluid pressure, since an increase in velocity must lead to a decrease in pressure, and, for all you cottager's out there, this is the principle behind the jet pump.
Volta, Alessandro, Count (1745-1827):
Volta was the Italian physicist which will always be remembered by the label "volt," one applied to describe a unit of electric pressure. It was Volta who developed the theory of current electricity; further, that water might be decomposed through the application of electricity; and further, he invented the electric battery.

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Wallis, John (1616-1703):
Wallis, the English mathematician, was to see to the publication of his work, Arithmetica Infinitorium. In it will be found Wallis' pioneering work which "presaged the calculus and the binomial theorem and a value for Psi."
Watson, James Dewey (b.1928):
Watson made his reputation in the field of genetics. He was born in Chicago, and, at the age of 15, he was admitted to the University of Chicago, graduating in 1947. At Indiana, he finished his Ph.D. in Genetics (it is interesting to note that both Cal. Tech and Harvard turned him down for their graduate programs). In 1950, Watson joined Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge, England; there to meet and work with such people as Francis Crick, and others, who were trying to determine the makeup of DNA (Deoxyribo Nucleic Acid). Thus it was, that Crick and Watson made their big discovery, viz. that DNA was a winding helix in which pairs of bases held the strands together. This model of the DNA double helix formed the basis of important research in the areas of Biochemistry and Molecular Genetics. In 1962, Watson and Crick, together with Maurice Wilkins, were awarded the Nobel Prize. In 1976, Watson was to become the full-time director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (Long Island, New York), which to some, came as a surprize, as he had, by then, established the image of the "Nutty Professor." At the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, Watson made important contributions to the understanding of genetic code. In 1988, Watson's achievement and success led to his appointment as the Head of the Human Genome Project at the National Institute of Health, a project which turned out to be the most determined and most generously funded effort in biology.
Wöhler, Friesrich (1800-82):
Wöhler, born near Frankfurt and educated at Heidelberg, was to become a professor at Göttingten in 1836. Wöhler's work led to him isolating aluminium. "His synthesis of urea from ammonium cyanate in 1828 revolutionized organic chemistry."

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2014 (2024)

Peter Landry