Gallery of Electromagnetic Personalities

A Vignette History of Electromagnetics


1. Franklin, Priestley, Coulomb, Galvani, Volta
2. Laplace, Poisson, Fourier, Ørsted, Ohm, Green
3. Ampère, Biot, Fresnel, Gauss, Weber
4. Faraday, Henry, Lenz
5. Morse, Siemens, Kelvin, Joule, Kirchhoff, Stokes
6. Maxwell, Rayleigh, Poynting, Bell, Edison
7. Tesla, Westinghouse, Steinmetz, Hertz, Marconi, Popov
8. Michelson, Morley, Heaviside, Lorentz, FitzGerald, Einstein


1

Franklin, Priestley, Coulomb

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was the tenth son of the seventeen children of a Boston soapmaker/candlemaker. In the 1740's electricity was a fashionable subject, introduced to the Colonies by an electrical machine sent by one of Franklin's English correspondents. In 1746 Franklin began to investigate electrical phenomena. His experiments and machines were described in personal letters to England and were relayed to the Royal Society which awarded him a medal and elected him a fellow. Franklin invented many terms still used in discussing electricity (positive, negative, battery, conductor, etc.) Photo: Franklin's electrostatic generator.

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804) was the scientist who discovered oxygen and other common gases. He was also a dissident clergyman who rejected many Christian doctrines. In 1793 he emigrated to America. With Franklin's encouragement he published an original work in which he summarized the knowledge of electricity to his time and described his own experiments. He anticipated the inverse square law of electrical attraction with his observation that when he electrified a hollow sphere there was no charge inside. He also discovered that charcoal conducts electricity and noted the relationship between electricity andchemical change. Photo: Priestley's electrostatic generator.

Charles-Augustin de Coulomb (1736-1806), a military civil engineer, retired from the French army because of ill health after years in the West Indies. Forced from Paris by the disturbances of the revolution, he began working at his family estate and discovered that the torsion characteristics of long fibers made them ideal for the sensitive measurement of magnetic and electric forces. He was familiar with Newton's inverse-square law and in the period 1785-1791 he succeeded in showing that electrostatic forces obey the same rule.

Galvani, Volta

Luigi Galvani (1737-1798) was an Italian physician who, in the 1770's, began to investigate the nature and effects of what he conceived to be electricity in animal tissue and of muscular stimulation by electrical means. In 1786, for example, he obtained muscular contractions in a frog by touching its nerves with a pair of scissors during an electrical storm. He also caused a frog muscle to contract by touching it with a nerve of another frog, showing that bioelectricity exists within living tissue. In his last years, Galvani refused to swear allegiance to the Cisalpine Republic established by Napoleon and he was fired from the University of Bologna. Fortunately, the authorities relented and he was allowed to resume his position without taking the oath.

Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta (1745-1827) was a professor at the University of Pavia. After Galvani discovered that contact of two different metals with the muscle of a frog resulted in an electric current, Volta began experimenting in 1794 with metals alone and found that animal tissue was not needed to produce a current. His invention and demonstration of the electric battery in 1800 provided the first continuous electric power source. Photo: Voltaic pile.


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