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Heinrich Hertz Biography

Inventor of Electromagnetism

Posted on November 27, 2011 by , with 8006 views

Heinrich Hertz

Heinrich Hertz was at the heart of many technological developments stemming from his theory that electricity could be transmitted in electromagnetic waves. This made possible the inventions of radio, television and radar. Hertz elaborated on the idea first put forward by Maxwell by describing the electromagnetic theory of light, and demonstrating this in practice using a set of apparatus which produced and detected VHF / UHF radio waves. Hertz had the honour of having his name associated with the unit of frequency.

Hertz was born on February 22, 1857 in Hamburg, Germany, into a wealthy and successful family. Gustav Ferdinand Hertz, his father, was a successful lawyer before becoming a senator. During his education he developed an interest in mathematics, engineering and science. He earned a PhD in 1880, from the University of Berlin, where he spent the majority of his time working on his thesis of electromagnetic induction in rotating conductors. He became a lecturer at the University of Kiel, continuing his research in the area of electromagnetism. In the years between 1885 and 1889 he worked as a professor of physics in Karlsruhe before moving to a similar role at the University in Bonn.

Hertz married Elizabeth Doll in 1886 having two daughters together - Joanna and Mathilde.

As Hertz continued to probe into the electromagnetic area of physic, it became clear to him that a lot of successful work had been undertaken by James Clerk Maxwell, a British scientist, who had proven the existence of electromagnetic waves from a succession of mathematical equations. This alerted a number of enthusiasts to devise experiments in an effort to detect electromagnetic radiation.

Hertz rose to this challenge and in 1887 backed up claims made by Maxwell regarding the existence of electromagnetic radiation. He verified that electricity can be transmitted via electromagnetic waves, which travel at the speed of light and exhibit a host of properties of light.

Hertz also stumbled upon a separate issue when conducting his experiments, realising that light falling on special surfaces could generate a degree of electricity - the photoelectric effect as we know it. As his research gathered momentum, Hertz illustrated that electric wave's velocity and length could be measured and that both heat and light were electromagnetic waves.

Hertz died in 1892, after suffering from a head cold, which turned into an allergy which ultimately led to blood poisoning. At the premature age of 36, he was buried in Ohlsdorf, Hamburg.

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