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Biographies of Famous Scientists, his life and achievements
Biographies of Famous Scientists:
- Who is James Clerk Maxwell: Biography
- Who is James Dwight Dana: Biography
- Who is James Hutton: Biography
- Who is James Prescott Joule: Biography
- Who is James Watson: Biography
- Who is James Watt: Biography
- Who is Jan Baptist von Helmont: Biography
- Who is Jane Goodall: Biography
- Who is Jane Marcet: Biography
- Who is Jean Piaget: Biography
- Who is Jean-Baptiste Lamarck: Biography
- Who is Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Biography
- Who is Johannes Kepler: Biography
- Who is John Archibald Wheeler: Biography
- Who is John Bardeen: Biography
- Who is John Dalton: Biography
- Who is John Locke: Biography
- Who is John Logie Baird: Biography
- Who is John Napier: Biography
Who is James Clerk Maxwell: Biography
When Einstein was asked if he had stood on the shoulders of Newton, he replied: “No, I stand on Maxwell’s shoulders.”
And Richard Feynman, another of the 20th century’s greatest physicists said:
“…the great transformations of ideas come very infrequently… we might think of Newton’s discovery of the laws of mechanics and gravitation, Maxwell’s theory of electricity and magnetism, Einstein’s theory of relativity, and… the theory of quantum mechanics.”
James Clerk Maxwell is one of the giants of physics. Unfortunately, his work is less famous than that of the other greats – possibly because his crowning glory – Maxwell’s Equations – are so hard to understand.
In producing these equations, he was the first scientist ever to unify any of nature’s fundamental forces. He discovered that electricity and magnetism are actually, at the deepest level, the same force – the electromagnetic force. In doing so, Maxwell proved that light is an electromagnetic wave, and so linked electricity, magnetism and optics.
As if this achievement were not enough, his kinetic theory of gases accurately explained the origin of temperature.
He introduced probability into the physics of the very small, laying the foundation for quantum theory.
He was the first person ever to produce a color photograph; and he used mathematics to explain Saturn’s rings over 100 years before the Voyager spacecraft confirmed that he was absolutely right.
In addition to his great discoveries, in his personal life, he was known for his capacity for hard work, his friendliness, personal kindness and generosity.
Maxwell’s School LifeJames Clerk Maxwell was born into a wealthy family in Edinburgh, Scotland on June 13, 18His father was a lawyer, and his mother died when he was only eight years old.
He attended high school in Edinburgh – Edinburgh Academy – where he published his first academic paper, ‘Oval Curves’ at the age of just By this age, he had also completely memorized the Bible. Maxwell was an evangelical protestant, who believed his religion was a private affair. Like Isaac Newton, he saw no disagreements between his science and his religion.
Unable to properly understand the genius in their class, some of the boys at school gave Maxwell the name ‘Dafty.’
Maxwell’s school classes had as many 60 children in them. One of his classmates, W. Macfarlane later said of him:
Clerk Maxwell, when he entered the Academy, was somewhat rustic and somewhat eccentric. Boys called him ‘Dafty,’ and used to try to make fun of him. On one occasion I remember he turned with tremendous vigour, with a kind of demonic force, on his tormentors. I think he was let alone after that, and gradually won the respect even of the most thoughtless of his schoolfellows.
Maxwell made firm friends with Lewis Campbell, who went on to became a professor of Greek at the University of St Andrews and Peter Guthrie Tait, who became a professor of physics at the University of Edinburgh.
Maxwell at University – A Student, then ProfessorAged 16, Maxwell entered Edinburgh University for three years, taking courses in physics (it was then called natural philosophy), mathematics, and philosophy. He found the courses rather easy, leaving plenty of free time for his own private scientific research. Maxwell continued to publish serious scientific papers while studying for his degree.
Aged 19, he moved to Cambridge University, studying mathematics, becoming a Fellow of Trinity College when he was 24, sharing the Smith’s Prize for theoretical physics and mathematics with Edward Routh.
In 1856, aged 25, he was awarded Edinburgh’s highest prize in mathematics, the Straiton Gold Medal, and in the same year, he was appointed to the Chair of Natural Philosophy at the University of Aberdeen, where he stayed for four years.
During this time he formulated and published his brilliant analysis of how Saturn’s rings could be stable for a long time. Britain’s top astronomer of the time, the Astronomer Royal, Sir George Biddell Airy said of the work:
It is one of the most remarkable applications of mathematics to physics that I have ever seen.
While at Aberdeen, he gave a weekly, free lecture at a working men’s college. He also married Katherine Mary Dewar, the daughter of the University’s principal. Maxwell lost his job at Aberdeen when a merger of University colleges left him redundant. In 1860, aged 29, he took a professorship at King’s College, London.
In this year, he also established that each molecule of air at room temperature collides 8 billion times a second with other molecules on average.
Maxwell stayed in London until 1865, carrying out much of his most notable work.
He then returned to his family home in Scotland for six years, which he devoted to experiments, calculations and writing. In 1866 he wrote:
I have now my time fully occupied with experiments and speculations of a physical kind, which I could not undertake as long as I had public duties.
During this time he wrote much of the groundbreaking Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism, which was published in 1873.
In 1871, he became Cavendish Professor at the University of Cambridge, where he remained until his death in 1879, aged just 48.
Color in the Human Eye and PhotographyExperimenting with spinning color wheels, Maxwell deduced that the light receptors in the human eye are capable of seeing just three colors of light. Later he reasoned that he could make use of his deduction to make a colored photograph – of tartan. He had photographs taken of tartan, first through a red light filter, then a green filter, then a blue filter.
The result of projecting the three images simultaneously on to a screen was a color image of the tartan cloth – the world’s first color photo, in 1861.
Electromagnetism – The First Unification of Nature’s Forces
Maxwell used mathematics to investigate the fundamental causes of electrical and magnetic behavior, producing what are, to professional physicists, some of the most beautiful equations they use – Maxwell’s Equations. These equations usually aren’t taught until later years in university physics or applied mathematics courses.
Maxwell proved that there must be electromagnetic waves, whose speed he calculated would be identical to the speed of light, which people already knew from experiments. Maxwell then knew that light must be an electromagnetic wave.
He also pointed out that infrared and other, as yet undiscovered electromagnetic rays, would travel at the speed of light. We now know that indeed there are other rays, such as radio waves, microwaves, UV rays and x-rays, and they all do travel at the speed of light.
Hard to Understand, they are the Key to our Modern WorldAlthough we now recognize the genius, and indeed beauty of Maxwell’s work, it was controversial when he first published it in 18Not many people realized that Maxwell’s Equations accurately and completely described electromagnetism.
In 1887, eight years after Maxwell’s death, Heinrich Hertz finally demonstrated by experiment that there truly are electromagnetic waves, which behave in exactly the way Maxwell had predicted. By 1901, Guglielmo Marconi was transmitting radio waves – the lowest energy form of electromagnetic waves – across the Atlantic Ocean, from Britain to Canada. The era of modern, wireless telecommunications had begun.
The Kinetic Theory of Gases and Statistical Physics – the end of Newton’s PhysicsIn his kinetic theory of gases, Maxwell established that the temperature of a gas was entirely dependent on the speed of its individual atoms or molecules.
He realized that the gas particles would not all move at the same speed, because collisions between them would speed some of them up and slow some of them down. Maxwell showed that particles in a gas would have a distribution of different speeds and what the distribution would be.
From this work, he showed that the Second Law of Thermodynamics – the law that heat always flows from higher temperature objects to lower temperature objects – is a statistical law, based on the behavior of huge numbers of particles. Although some individual particles might disobey the law, the majority obey the law. It is even possible that the law could be broken on a larger scale, but the likelihood of this happening is incredibly small.
A Drop in the OceanMaxwell likened the chances of one of these statistical laws being broken on a large scale to the chances of pouring a glass of water into the ocean, then later dipping the glass into the ocean and finding that it filled up with exactly the same molecules you had poured in earlier.
Using the distribution of behaviors of gas molecules, Maxwell developed statistical physics. His methods, and those further developed by Willard Gibbs were the keystones of the following century’s quantum physics, where no longer could we be absolutely sure about the behavior of small particles – we could only look at the chances of their behaving in particular ways.
Maxwell helped move physics away from the classical, mechanical world view of Newton towards the quantum, probabilistic view that we rely on today – a view that Albert Einstein was never happy with, saying famously that ‘God does not play dice with the Universe.’
An Early DemiseSadly, James Clerk Maxwell was not to enjoy a long life. He died of abdominal cancer in 1879 at the age of just Strangely, his mother had died at the same age, from the same disease. He was survived by his wife, Katherine.
With Maxwell’s passing, the world had lost one of its greatest minds.
James Dwight Dana
Who is James Dwight Dana: Biography
Early lifeJames Dwight Dana was born in Utica, NY, way back on February 12, 18His parents were Harriet Dwight and James Dana who worked as a merchant. Through his mother’s side of the family, he was related to the Dwight Family of New England who were missionaries and educators. Some of his relatives included Henry Otis Dwight and Harrison Gray Otis Dwight. James Dwight showed an interest in science at a very young age and this interest was fostered by one of his teachers in Utica high school. The teacher was fay Edgerton and she had a big role towards making sure that young James developed his interest in science. In the year 1830, he graduated high school and enrolled in in Yale College where he got the chance to study under the elder Benjamin Silliman. He graduated from Yale College three years after in the 1833 and spent the next two years of his life working as a teacher to midshipmen in the navy to whom to taught math to. He got the chance to sail to the Mediterranean while he was teaching.
His careerIn the years 1836 and 1837, James Dwight Dana took on a job as assistant to Benjamin Silliman who was a professor at Yale and headed the chemical department. Four years after his assistant post, he moved on to become a mineralogist and a geologist for the US Exploring Expedition which was headed by Capt. Charles Wilkins. The expedition took him all the way to the Pacific Ocean where he found enough material to keep him occupied for the next 13 years of his life. The expedition ended in 1942 and he had notebooks filled with sketches, maps, diagrams, and views of Castle Craggs and well as Mount Shasta. In the year 1849, his sketch of Mounts Shasta was engraved and published in the American Journal of Science an Arts- a publication spearheaded by Silliman in the early 1800s. The publication also published a rather lengthy article based on Dana’s geological notes from 18The article talked about rocks, minerals, and the geology of the Shasta region using scientific terms. The year 1844 was an exciting year for James Dwight Dana because not only did he become a resident of New Haven but it was also the year he got married to Henrietta Frances Silliman- she was the daughter of Benjamin Silliman.
In the year 1850, he was given a big honor and was appointed as the successor to his father-in-law and became a Silliman Professor of Natural History and Geology in Yale. Dana held on to this teaching spot until 18But teaching wasn’t all he did during those years because in 1846, he joined the American Journal of Science and Arts and took on the role as joint editor. During the later years of his life though, he moved on to become chief editor but he was also a contributor and published works on the subject of geology and mineralogy.
Notable worksIt has to be said that he managed to accomplish a lot but he had a couple of contributions that really stood out. For instance, his 1849 publication of Mount Shasta was in response to the gold rush in California. After all, he was the pre-eminent geologist in the US during his life and he really was just one of the very few observers who had knowledge of the terrain in northern CA. Dana was the guy who wrote that given the geography and geology of the area, it was very likely that gold could be found in northern CA.
James Dwight Dana was also responsible for giving the world information about the volcanic landscape and activity in Hawaii. It was in the years 1880 and 1881 that he went on the first geological study of volcanoes in Hawaii and he was the same guy who theorized that the chain of volcanoes in the area consisted of two strands known as the “loa” and the “kea” strands. That wasn’t his first and last visit though because in 1890, he went with C.E. Dutton, a fellow geologist, and again published a manuscript about the island that was the most detailed study anyone had ever seen at that time. For decades, his manuscript was the definitive source for Hawaii’s volcanoes.
Publications Dana was a prolific writer but some of his best works are his System of Mineralogy (1837), Manual of Geology (1863), and his manual of Mineralogy (1848). He also had a very interesting manuscripts published which were entitled Science and the Bible which he wrote in an effort to reconcile science with some biblical texts. Not only did his works get a lot of attention and used in schools but he also received a lot of awards like the Copley Medal in 1877 from the Royal Society, the Wollaston medal in 1874 from the Geological Society of London, and the Clarke medal in 1882 from the Royal Society of New South Wales.
The final journeyJames Dwight Dana died on April 14, 18He had a son named Edward Salisbury Dana who was also a well-known and brilliant mineralogist during the years 1849-1935.
Who is James Hutton: Biography
Early Life and Educational BackgroundHe was one of five children of the merchant named William Hutton who was also at that time the city treasurer of Edinburgh. His father, however, died when he was still young and it was their mother Sarah Balfour who had taken care of him and his siblings.
His mother had insisted that James should attend the High School of Edinburgh and James had shown a particular interest for chemistry and mathematics. When he turned 14 though, he studied as a “student of humanity” at the University of Edinburgh. He then became a lawyer’s apprentice, but upon the advice of his employer for him to have a more congenial career, James Hutton began to pursue his interest in medicine as it was nearest to chemistry which was his favorite pursuit back then.
For three years, he studied in Edinburgh and was able to complete his medical education in the University of Paris. In the year 1749, he finished his degree as a Doctor of Medicine at Leiden where his thesis had been on blood circulation. During that time, however, it wasn’t exactly the boom of the medical profession and seeing there was little opportunity for him, James Hutton left his career as a doctor and pursued agricultural endeavors.
CareersHe had inherited a small property which had been in their family since 1713 when his father passed away. He used this piece of land in Berwickshire for his agricultural pursuits. It was after his not so fruitful practice of medicine that he moved back to their farm in the Slighhouses and he began making some improvements when he settled there in 17He had experimented with both plant as well as animal husbandry, and noted his innovations and ideas in a work called The Elements of Agriculture. One of his more famous accomplishments in agriculture involved his development of a red dye he was able to make from the madder plant’s roots.
His exposure to agriculture was what had led him to develop a love for geology for which he is famous for. The process of clearing and then draining the farm had given him enough opportunities to observe rocks and their formation. The farm became a stable place and later on he was able to build a house where he and his three sisters lived in Edinburgh.
James Hutton and GeologyBack in the day, geology in the proper meaning of the word was practically nonexistent, but there was quite a progress in mineralogy. Ideas conceived by James Hutton were unheard of and were not easily entertained by those who were then the experts in mineralogy. He had desired to trace the origins of different rocks and minerals which would then lead to a better understanding of the earth’s history.
He pursued his research for years, and it was in the spring of 1785 when he had expressed his views to the Royal Society of Edinburgh—only recently established then through his work called Theory of the Earth, or an Investigation of the Laws Observable in the Composition, Dissolution and Restoration of Land upon the Globe. His work had been remarkable and he had expressed how this study was not at all like cosmogony.
According to Hutton, geology is a study which is confined to the materials found on the earth and that all around there may be evidence proving that the rocks which are now visible on the earth’s surface may have been part of greater, older rocks which have previously been in the bottom of the sea—that there is a cycle of rock formation and that pressure, heat, and other factors contribute to the presence of these materials on the earth’s surface.
He searched for evidence to prove his theories, and discovered how granite was able to penetrate metamorphic schists—which was indicative or granite’s being molten at one point. He had also discovered a similar event of penetration of volcanic rocks through sedimentary rocks. James Hutton had even travelled with John Playfair to find more geological samples proving the origin of rocks and minerals by examining the unconformities and rock formations they came across.
From the observations and research that Hutton had noted, he reasoned how there must have already been innumerable cycles which each involved the deposition of materials onto the seabed, uplift of these same materials through tilting and erosion, and formation of different layers under the sea. The thicknesses of the layers had implied to him the stretches of time in between the formation of these rocks.
Other InterestsIt was not only geology that had captured the attention of Hutton, but he also had an interest for meteorology and the earth’s atmosphere. Apart from his publication called “Theory of the Earth” he also had one entitled “Theory of the Rain” where he had investigated about the climate as well as rainfall in different parts of the world which led him to conclude that rainfall is regulated by humidity as well as air currents.
He had also believed that the earth is a superorganism, but this idea of his was overshadowed by the reductionism in the 19th century. Apart from those beliefs, he also advocated the uniformitarianism for living organisms.
Much of the contributions of Hutton received less attention than it should have when he was still alive, but five years after his death, John Playfair published a great summary of Hutton’s works in Illustrations of the Huttonian Theory of the Earth, and a biography of the father of geology was also published by Playfair in the fifth volume of Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Who is James Prescott Joule: Biography
Early Life and Education:Born in Salford, Lancashire on December 24, 1818, James Prescott Joule’s father was a rich brewer. Joule was mostly homeschooled. He studied arithmetic and geometry under John Dalton at the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. He was later taught by famous scientist and lecturer, John Davies.
Contributions and Achievements:James Prescott Joule analyzed the nature of heat, and established its relationship to mechanical energy. His efforts had a profound influence on the theory of conversation of energy (the First Law of Thermodynamics). He collaborated with Lord Kelvin on the formulation of the absolute scale of temperature, and carried out extensive research on magnetostriction; a property of ferromagnetic materials that makes them modify their shapes when exposed to a magnetic field.
Joule was the first scientist to identify this property in 1842 during an experiment with a sample of nickel. He established the relationship between the flow of current through a resistance and the heat dissipated, which was later termed as Joule’s law. He is also credited with the first-ever calculation the velocity of a gas molecule. The derived unit of energy or work, the Joule, is named after him.
Joule was elected to the Royal Society of London and was given a Copley award. He also served as the president of the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
Later Life and Death:James Prescott Joule died on October 11, 1889 in Sale, Greater Manchester, England. He was 70 years old.
Who is James Watson: Biography
Early Life and Education:James Watson was born in 1928 in Chicago, Illinois and his father was a tax collector of Scottish ancestry. He attended the University of Chicago, Indiana University and the Cavendish Laboratory of the University of Cambridge with Francis Crick. He was appointed a faculty member at Harvard University, and a few years later, the director of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory.
Contributions and Achievements:James Watson gained worldwide fame and prominence as the joint author of the four scientific papers between 1953 and 1954 (which he co-wrote with fellow scientist Francis Crick) that laid down the double helical structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), a megamolecule that is the fundamental substance in the process of genetic replication. This discovery won Watson and Crick (with Maurice Wilkins) the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1962.
During the 1960s, Watson became one of the most celebrated science writers, as he published his textbook “Molendor Biology of the Gene” in 1965, and his best-selling autobiographical book “The Double Helix” in 19Watson became the undisputed leading voice in the whole of American science. He epitomized the scientific creativity in 20th century science, giving rise to molecular biology and its two applied offsets; biotechnology and the “Human Genome Project”.
Who is James Watt: Biography
James Watt was born in 1736 in Greenock, Scotland. He was an inventor, engineer and scientist.
Quick Guide to James Watt’s Inventions and DiscoveriesJames Watt:
• radically improved the steam engine, starting the industrial revolution.
• continued to produce a stream of new ideas and inventions, which eventually resulted in an engine that needed 80% less fuel than earlier engines.
• invented high pressure steam engines capable of even higher efficiencies, but the technology of the time was not capable of operating them safely.
• introduced the word horsepower to describe an engine’s power output. We now generally use watts to measure power, although engine power is still often rated in horsepower.
• was the first person to propose that water was made of hydrogen combined with oxygen.
• independently discovered the scientific concept of latent heat.
• invented the world’s first copying machine – similar in function to a photocopier – to make copies of correspondence, pages of books, and pictures.
Early YearsJames Watt came from a successful family. His grandfather taught mathematics, and his father was a carpenter, who built ships.
His mother was well-educated, and intelligent. She taught him to read, while his father taught him arithmetic and writing. He excelled at math, science and engineering at high school, but his language skills were less impressive.
As a boy, James Watt’s health was often poor, and much of his learning took place at home, where he could watch the fishing boats coming into the port of Greenock and the big sailing ships bringing in tobacco from the Americas. One day, thanks to his inventive mind, ships like these would be powered by engines.
At eighteen, following the death of his mother, and a ship sinking that placed a financial burden on his family, James gave up his plans to go to university. Instead, he trained in London as a scientific instrument maker, specializing in mathematical and nautical instruments. Within two months, his skills were higher than others who had been in training for two years. His exceptional hand skills had previously been commented on by workers in his father’s shipyard in Greenock.
After a year in London, he found work at Glasgow University, repairing instruments for the astronomy department.
Making Friends, Building Knowledge, and Developing New Skills at Glasgow UniversityWatt’s instrument work was so good that the university’s professors wanted to keep him working there permanently, so they invited him to set up a workshop in the university.
The professors soon realized the young man in the workshop had a brain equal to their own. They began calling on him to discuss their work. Students of mathematics and physics found that Watt had learned more about their subjects than they had.
He also overcame his earlier poor language skills, teaching himself German and Italian in order to read more scientific literature.
At Glasgow University, James Watt became friends with Adam Smith, who founded the academic discipline of Economics and wrote The Wealth of Nations. He also became friends with the chemist Joseph Black, who discovered magnesium and, independently of Watt, invented the concept of latent heat. In 1759, four years after his arrival in Glasgow, the 23 year-old James Watt became interested in steam engines.
This happened when another of his new friends at the university, Professor John Robinson discussed with Watt the possibility of a steam-driven car. Although their ideas for the car were impractical, a seed had been sown in Watt’s fertile mind.
Professor Robinson didn’t stand still either. He was the first person to publish an inverse-square law for electric forces, and he invented the siren.
The Coming of SteamIn 1763, aged 27, Watt came into contact with a working steam engine, the Newcomen engine. Professor John Anderson, who used the engine as a demonstration in his physics classes, needed it repaired. Watt did the repair, but was astonished at how little work the engine was able to do.
At that time, Newcomen engines had been used in Britain for 50 years, and no-one had found a way to improve them.
They worked on the principle that the piston in the cylinder would be driven in one direction by a jet of steam causing air in the cylinder to expand, then cold water would be injected in place of the steam to cool the air in the cylinder, creating a partial vacuum which pulled the piston back in the other direction, ready for the cycle to begin again with the injection of hot steam.
Watt decided that he could make a better engine. He thought about little else, and experimented in his workshop with water and steam in metal vessels.
After two years of experimenting and thinking, Watt had his Eureka moment.
With his scientific understanding of the behavior of water and the principle of latent heat, he realized that the problem with the Newcomen steam engine was as follows: heat was being used by the engine to generate steam, but when the steam had done its work the cylinder was cooled down with water. Heating and cooling the same cylinder for every piston stroke was very costly in terms of energy needed to do it.
In Watt’s own words, slightly modernized:
The idea came into my mind that as steam was a gas it would rush into a vacuum, and if I linked the engine’s cylinder to a vessel at low pressure, the steam would rush into it. The steam would condense there and it wouldn’t cool the engine-cylinder. I then saw that I must get rid of the condensed steam from the cylinder.
Watt redesigned the engine. His idea was that air pressure would push the piston into a partial vacuum generated when steam condenses into liquid water. The steam turned into water in Watt’s condenser, which was surrounded by cold water. The process was helped by a vacuum pump connected to the condenser which took the hot water made by the condensing steam and conveyed it back, still hot, to the boiler ready to be turned back into steam.
While keeping the condenser cold, Watt had also realized the importance of keeping the piston/working cylinder hot: he surrounded these with a hot steam jacket.
By the end of 1765, a 29 year-old Watt had built his first small-scale steam engine, featuring a separate condensing chamber, and a steam jacket. The start of industrial revolution was getting closer, but had not yet begun.
In 1769, aged 33, Watt patented his new engine.
From Small-Scale Engines to Industrial SuperpowerWatt owned one of the most important patents in human history. He sold it to John Roebuck, whose factory went bankrupt.
Matthew Boulton of Birmingham bought the patent rights to Watt’s steam engine.
In 1775, Watt celebrated his 39th birthday and began a highly successful 25 year partnership with Boulton. The partnership was a perfect combination of Watt’s scientific and engineering ingenuity and Boulton’s factory and commercial skills.
Eleven years after Watt built his first small-scale steam engine, his engines began to be installed to pump water out of mines. The annual fee the mine owners paid for the machines was one-third of the value of the fuel savings the machines made.
News of the new super-efficient engines spread fast, and with the coming of Watt’s steam engines, the industrial revolution began.
Watt and Boulton’s success did have a few hiccups along the way. In 1791, they had to arm their workers against a four day riot in which scientists and intellectuals were a specific target.
As the years passed, Boulton & Watt engines found their way into ever more applications, and the United Kingdom was gripped by the industrial revolution. Boulton and Watt began exporting their new technology all over the world.
The new industries began releasing larger amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than previous human actions had. This trend continues today.
The End, But Not Before Another Crucial New Engine Design!In 1800, aged 64, and very wealthy, Watt retired. His patent had expired, and he and Matthew Boulton passed their partnership to their sons, James Watt Junior, and Matthew Robinson Boulton, who continued it successfully.
Watt continued with research work in his retirement. He patented his copying machine, the double-action engine, the rotary engine, and the steam pressure indicator.
The rotary engine was crucial, because it enabled engines to drive wheels rather than the simpler up-down pumping motion of earlier machines.
James Watt died in 1819, aged His mental power had not declined. His mind was razor sharp to the end.
Who is Jan Baptist von Helmont: Biography
Early Years and BackgroundBorn on the 12th day of January in 1580, Brussels, Germany, Jan Baptist von Helmont was a member of one of the noble families back then. He was the youngest of the five children of Christiaen van Helmont, who was a public prosecutor, and Maria van Stassaert. He obtained his education in Louvain. There, he explored the many different fields of science. However, he found no satisfaction in them and in the end he focused his works on medicine. He had his medical degree in 1599.
He had some interruptions in his study where he spent his time travelling through England, France, Italy, and Switzerland. In 1605, he practiced medicine in Antwerp and this was the time of the great plague. Four years later, he was able to have his doctoral degree for his courses in medicine. When he finished his education completely, he then married Margaret van Ranst. She was also from a noble family, and the couple lived in Vilvoorde, an area near Brussels. They had six or seven children, and because of the inheritance his wife had, he was able to comfortably retire early and be occupied with various chemical experiments until his time of death.
Scientific CareerHe is sometimes referred to as the founder of pneumatic chemistry. This is because he was the very first to understand and acknowledge that there are certain gases which are different from atmospheric air. He claimed the word “gas” to be his own invention, and he perceived how what he called as “gas sylvestre” which is something that comes from burning charcoal is also the same gas present in fermented food. This same air was what he claimed to be the cause of caves having irrespirable air.
What makes this man of science interesting is that he was also one of the disciples of Paracelsus who happened to be an alchemist and a mystic—two fields which are contradictory to what “science” really is. Most probably because of this, Jan Baptist von Helmont believed how air and water are the two most primitive elements. He had explicitly denied fire to be an element, and that earth also isn’t an element since it can be reduced to water.
From these thoughts and beliefs, he was able to conceive the 5-year plant experiment. He did this by planting a willow tree in 200 pounds of dry soil and he gave the tree nothing but water for five years—the soil remaining basically the same throughout the time of the experiment. Over the course of 5 years, the willow tree reached its maturity taking in what it was given, and in the end it totaled 169 ib. Because of this finding, Jan Baptist von Helmont argued that the growth, change in weight, accumulation of bark, and roots had been formed based on the supply of water alone.
Jan Baptist von Helmont believed in the old idea that bodily processes have fermentative characteristics, but compared to any experimenters who came before him, he was able to apply it in more elaborate and conclusive means. He perceived how digestion, nutrition, as well as internal movement related to these procedures are caused by ferments which help convert the “dead food” into what the body can use to support its living flesh.
Also concerning digestion, he addressed how food consumed is digested by the heat from the body. However, if this was the case, according to him, how are the cold-blooded animals able to digest their food with something as heat? This was where the fermentative properties came in. He believed that there are chemical agents inside the body which bring about the fermentation and convert food in the stomach into usable energy. This idea of Jan Baptist von Helmont is very much similar to today’s modern concept of what enzymes help achieve in the body.
Being a disciple of Paracelsus, his scientific thoughts also had their own indications of still having the mystic and alchemical ideas behind them. He introduced complicated supernatural systems in the body. These included the archei which was said to preside over the direct affairs of one’s body and the archeus which controls the different subsidiary archei. Diseases are caused by certain affection observed in the different archeus which he called as exorbitatio, and that remedies act by bringing back the balance that the body needs.
Combining these ideas and his knowledge in medicine, he was able to make unique yet effective choices. One example was how acidity caused by digestive juices can be remedied by alkalis. Because of this thought, he was one of the forerunners of the iatrochemical school. He had contributed to the field of medicine by being able to apply the different chemical methods he knew for the preparation of certain drugs.
Religious ViewsAbove what he called the archeus, Jan Baptist von Helmont believed in the presence of a person’s sensitive soul. According to him this is the shell or husk of one’s immortal mind and before “the Fall,” a person’s archeus obeyed the immortal mind.
Apart from the archeus, he also believed in certain governing agencies which resembled the archeus, one of which is “blas” or motion, particularly that there is blashumanun or blas of the humans, and blasmeteoron or blas of meteors. Meteors do, after all, have their own gas and even have motion, which is why his belief about “blas” appeared to be something that is not based on just whim alone.
Jan Baptist von Helmont was a fervent observer of nature, and with his education as well as other beliefs, he was able to come up with medical contributions that transcended his time and wrote his name in history.
Who is Jane Goodall: Biography
“Chimpanzees have given me so much. The long hours spent with them in the forest have enriched my life beyond measure. What I have learned from them has shaped my understanding of human behavior, of our place in nature.”
Early Life and Education:As a child she was given a lifelike chimpanzee toy named Jubilee by her mother. Jubilee started her early love of animals. Today, the toy still sits on her dresser in London. As she writes in her book, Reason For Hope: “My mother’s friends were horrified by this toy, thinking it would frighten me and give me nightmares.” Jane was a bright student as she is the one of only nine people to receive a PhD degree in Ethology without first obtaining a BA or B.Sc.
Were it not for fate, Goodall may have ended up being a secretary instead of the champion of animals she now is as went to secretarial school and then had a series of jobs at Oxford University and for a film studio that made documentary films until by chance a friend invited her to travel to Kenya. She saved her money by working as a waitress until she could afford to travel by boat to Kenya. She sailed from London to Africa on the passenger liner The Kenya Castle. Two months after arriving there she met Louis Leakey, a famous anthropologist and his wife, Mary.
After a period of working with the Leakeys in the Uvalde Gorge, Leakey recognized in Goodall the right qualities to do an in depth study of chimpanzees in the Gombe National Park in Tanzania.
Contributions and Achievements:Dr. Goodall’s research at Gombe Stream is best known to the scientific community for challenging two long-standing beliefs of the day: that only humans could construct and use tools, and that chimpanzees were passive vegetarians. While observing one chimpanzee feeding at a termite mound, she watched him repeatedly place stalks of grass into termite holes, then remove them from the hole covered with clinging termites, effectively “fishing” for termites. The chimps would also take twigs from trees and strip off the leaves to make the twig more effective, a form of object modification which is the rudimentary beginnings of tool making.
Humans had long distinguished us from the rest of the animal kingdom as “Man the Toolmaker”. In response to Goodall’s revolutionary findings, Louis Leakey wrote, “We must now redefine man, redefine tool, or accept chimpanzees as human!” Over the course of her study, Goodall found evidence of mental traits in chimpanzees such as reasoned thought, abstraction, generalization, symbolic representation, and even the concept of self, all previously thought to be uniquely human abilities.
But the most disturbing thing was the tendency for aggression and violence within chimpanzee troops. Goodall observed dominant females deliberately killing the young of other females in the troop in order to maintain their dominance, sometimes going as far as cannibalism. These findings revolutionized contemporary knowledge of chimpanzee behaviour, and were further evidence of the social similarities between humans and chimpanzees, albeit it in a much darker manner.
Goodall also set herself apart from the traditional conventions of the time by naming the animals in her studies of primates, instead of assigning each a number. Numbering was a nearly universal practice at the time, and thought to be important in the removal of one’s self from the potential for emotional attachment to the subject being studied.
Later Life:Jane was the international recipient of the 1996 Caring Award for Scientific Achievement. She also received the National Geographic Society’s prestigious Hubbard Medal ‘for her extraordinary study of wild chimpanzees and for tirelessly defending the natural world we share. She has also appeared in an episode of Nickelodeon’s animated series and is also a character in Irregular Web comic Steve and Terry theme. A parody of Goodall featured as a diamond-hoarding chimpanzee slave driver in an episode of The Simpsons.
Today, Jane Goodall spends much of her time lecturing, sharing her message of hope for the future and encouraging young people to make a difference in their world.
Who is Jane Marcet: Biography
Yet that still does not qualify her as a famous scientist, even though she wrote her book for girls in a time when education for girls in Great Britain was viewed as unimportant.
No, the reason she is famous is that she wrote her chemistry book in a way that anyone with little formal education could understand, and it became the standard text in chemistry education.
In Jane Marcet’s time, science was a field inhabited by wealthy people. It was very difficult for poorer people to get enough education to become scientists.
But one poor boy, born in 1791, whose father had worked as a blacksmith, did it.
The boy started work as an apprentice bookbinder aged 13, and went on to become one of the world’s greatest scientists, revolutionizing both physics and chemistry.
Jane Marcet’s book Conversations on Chemistry was so good, many schools in Great Britain started using it.
It made its way to the United States, where Thomas Jefferson’s papers show that he bought a copy of it in 18
It became a standard textbook for girls’ education in America and was translated into both French and German.
Amazingly, Jane Marcet was not a chemist and had received no formal training in chemistry. So, how did she come to write such an influential book?
The Making of Jane Marcet
Increasingly, Jane became as interested in chemistry as her husband. She began attending lectures at the Royal Institution given by eminent chemists such as Humphry Davy. She found these lectures confusing. Why? she wondered.
Discussing the lectures with other attendees, she realized she was not alone in her confusion. She performed experiments at home and was able share her thoughts with her husband, who had been formally educated in chemistry, and understood her difficulties.
Mrs Marcet decided to learn enough to write about chemistry in such a way that everyone who wanted to understand the subject could understand it.
In 1806, aged 37, she published Conversations on Chemistry, Intended More Especially for the Female Sex. The book was anonymous until 1837, when her name finally appeared as its author. It was always clear that the book had been written by a woman, because at its front it had always featured these words penned by Jane Marcet:
She wrote the book to help other people who were confused by chemistry.
Her explanations were easier to understand than other textbooks, but they were still scientifically accurate for the time they were written. The book was user-friendly and treated its subject thoroughly in two volumes, each with more than 300 pages.
Jane Marcet also added her own drawings to help make her explanations even clearer, again helping people understand chemistry better.
Ultimately, the influence of Jane Marcet on science was enormous. She made it a subject that girls could consider pursuing, and she made it a subject that people who were not wealthy and who had only a few years of schooling could get to grips with. In doing so, she inspired one of the greatest scientists in history and enabled him to learn enough about chemistry to start a scientific career.
Mary Somerville, after whom The University of Oxford’s first female college was named, said of Jane Marcet:
Who is Jean Piaget: Biography
Early Life and Education:Born in 1896 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, Jean Piaget’s father, Arthur Piaget, taught medieval literature at the University of Neuchâtel. Piaget showed an early interest in biology and the natural world. He attended the University of Neuchâtel, and later, the University of Zürich.
Even as a young student, Piaget wrote two philosophical papers that were unfortunately rejected as adolescent thoughts.
Contributions and Achievements:It has been believed that no theoretical framework has had a bigger influence on developmental psychology than that of Jean Piaget. He founded the International Centre of Genetic Epistemology at Geneva and became its director. He made extraordinary contributions in various areas, including sociology, experimental psychology and scientific thought.
Piaget took ideas from biology, psychology and philosophy and investiagted the method by which children learn about the world. He based his conclusions about child development on his observations and conversations with his own, as well as other children. By asking them ingenious and revealing questions about simple problems he had devised, he shaped a picture of their way of viewing the world by analyzing their mistaken responses. He forumalted a outstandingly well-articulated and integrated theory of cognitive development.
Piaget was a highly prolific author who wrote about 70 books and more than 100 articles about human psychology. His theoretical conceptualizations have induced a vast amount of research.
Later Life and Death:Jean Piaget was honored with the Balzan Prize for Social and Political Sciences in 19The following year, he died on September 16, 19He was 84 years old.
Who is Jean-Baptiste Lamarck: Biography
Early Life and Career:Born in Bazentin, Picardy, France in 1768 to an aristocrat father, Jean-Baptiste Lamarck started studying botany, and issued his first work, “la Flore Française”, in 17The book gained him fame and with his good friend and naturalist Georges Buffon, he was made a member of the Academy of Sciences in 1779.
Lamarck was apppointed an associate botanist in 17He soon gained worldwide acclaim after beginning a career in 1788 at the prestigious botanical garden, Jardin du Roi, Paris (now Jardin des Plantes). As the garden was reorganized in 1793, he gave some great ideas to setup the structure of the new Museum of Natural History. The same same year, Lamarck was selected as the professor of the Chair of Invertebrate Zoology.
Lamarck’s brilliant contributions to science comprise of extraordinary work in botany, paleontology, geology, meteorology and chemistry. A few of his famous publications include “Système des Animaux sans vertèbres” (1801) and “Recherche sur l’organisation des espèces” (1802). He was appointed a member of the French Academy of Sciences in 1779.
Later Life and Death: Lamarck went blind and died a poor man in Paris on December 18, 1829.
Who is Jocelyn Bell Burnell: Biography
Early life, Education and Career:Jocelyn Bell Burnell was born on July 15, 1943 in Belfast, Northen Island. Her father was an architect for the Armagh Observatory, where Jocelyn spent much time as a child. At a young age she read a number of books on astronomy and her interest in the subject was encouraged by the staff of the Armagh Observatory. She attended Lurgan College and went on to earn a Physics degree at Glasgow University, Scotland in 19In 1969 completed her Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge, where under the supervision of Antony Hewish, she also constructed and operated a 81.5 megahertz radio telescope. She studied interplanetary scintillation of compact radio sources.
In 1967 Bell, while analyzing literally miles of print-outs from the telescope, noted a few unusual signals which she termed as “scruff”. These “bits of scruff” seemed to indicate radio signals too fast and regular to come from quasars. Both Jocelyn and Hewish ruled out orbiting satellites, French television signals, radar, finally even “little green men.” Looking back at some papers in theoretical physics, they determined that these signals must have emerged from rapidly spinning, super-dense, collapsed stars. The media named these as collapsed stars pulsars and published the story.
In 1968, soon after her discovery, Bell married Martin Burnell (divorced 1993). Her husband was a government worker, and his career took them to various parts of England. She worked part-time for many years while raising her son, Gavin Burnell. During that period she began studying almost every wave spectrum in astronomy and gained an extraordinary breadth of experience. She held a junior teaching fellowship from 1970 to 1973 at the University of Southampton where she developed and calibrated a 1-10 million electron volt gamma-ray telescope. She also held research and teaching positions in x-ray astronomy at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory in London, and studied infrared astronomy in Edinburgh.
Jocelyn did not share the Nobel Prize awarded to Hewish for the discovery of pulsars, but has received numerous awards for her professional contributions. She was first chosen as a fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society in 1969 and has served as its Vice President. Among many of her awards she received the Beatrice M. Tinsley Prize from the American Astronomical Society in 1987 and the Herschel Medal from the Royal Astronomical Society in 19She also won the Oppenheimer Prize and The Michelson Medal.
She is currently a Visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and a Fellow of Mansfield College. Also Jocelyn is the current President of the Institute of Physics.
Who is Johannes Kepler: Biography
• religion clashed with religion
• religion clashed with science
• the old ideas of Ptolomy and Aristotle clashed with the new discoveries of Copernicus and Galileo
• the superstition of astrology clashed with the science of astronomy
Kepler reflected the times he lived in. Seen through modern eyes, he had somewhat contradictory ideas. He was:
• an unorthodox Protestant
• a follower of Copernicus and Galileo
• a brilliant mathematician and scientist who discovered that the solar system’s planets follow elliptical paths, not circular paths
• an astrologer, whose horoscopes were sought out as among the best available
Such contradictions were not unusual during the scientific revolution. Isaac Newton, who lived in a later time than Kepler (1643 to 1727) did not work in the way a modern scientist would. Also a Protestant with unorthodox views, Newton spent more time investigating the true meaning of the Bible’s words and on the pseudoscience of alchemy than he did on mathematics or physics!
Johannes Kepler’s Early Life and EducationJohannes Kepler was born on December 27, 1571, in the town of Weil der Stadt, which then lay in the Holy Roman Empire, and is now in Germany.
When Johannes was about five years old, his father, Heinrich Kepler, was killed in Holland fighting as a mercenary. His mother, Katharina Guldenmann, was a herbalist who helped run an inn owned by her father.
Physically Damaged, Intellectually StrongThe young Johannes Kepler was prone to ill-health. His hands were crippled and his eyesight permanently impaired by smallpox. Despite these difficulties, guests at his grandfathers’ inn were astonished at his ability to solve any problem they could bring to him involving numbers.
His herbalist mother, Katharina, tried to convey her love of the natural world to her son. She made a point of taking him out at night to show him interesting things in the heavens, including a comet and a lunar eclipse.
In doing so, she set her son on a course which would eventually transform our understanding of our solar system and the universe.
Johannes Kepler was inspired by the sight of the moon turning red during a lunar eclipse. His mother took him outside to see the eclipse when he was nine years old. He remembered this event clearly for the rest of his life. Image by Brian Paczkowski.
Kepler was formally schooled in Latin – the language of academics, the legal profession and churchmen throughout Europe – and then attended the Protestant Seminary of Maulbronn, because he wished to become a Protestant minister.
Completing his studies at Maulbronn, he moved on to the University of Tübingen. There, although he took courses in theology, Greek, Hebrew, and philosophy, it was in mathematics that he stood out.
He was one of the few students deemed intellectually and mathematically capable of being taught the work of Nicolaus Copernicus. Kepler decided that Copernicus’s heliocentric hypothesis, that the sun lay at the center of the solar system, was correct.
In 1594, aged 23, Kepler became a lecturer in astronomy and mathematics at the Protestant School in the city of Graz, Austria.
Kepler Discovers the Truth about Planets’ Orbits
His own belief was that the sun exerted a force on the planets orbiting it.
In 1596, at the age of 25, he published a book – Mystery of the Cosmos. His book explained why, logically, the sun lay at the center of the solar system.
Kepler noted that Mercury and Venus always seem to be close to the sun, unlike Mars, Jupiter and Saturn. This is because Mercury and Venus’s orbits are closer to the sun than Earth’s. Kepler said that if the sun and all the planets orbited Earth, there is no reason why Mercury and Venus should always be near the sun.
Kepler Sees the Hand of GodIncluding Earth, there were only six planets. (Kepler never talks about Uranus, Neptune or Pluto, because they not been discovered in his day.)
Looking for evidence of ‘God the mathematician,’ Kepler was able to justify six planets and their distances from the sun in terms of the five Platonic solids. These are the five highly symmetrical, regular, 3D solids whose perfect symmetry allows them to be used as dice.
The Platonic Solids – Kepler believed these shapes determine how far each of the six known planets lay from the sun.
Remarkably, looked at in the way Kepler did, his Platonic solids theory produced a close fit to the planet-to-sun distances that Copernicus had found.
Kepler believed the solar system’s planets orbited the sun in circular paths whose sizes were determined by an arrangement of the five Platonic Solids.
Kepler Seeks Better DataThrilled that he had found evidence of the hand of God in the the solar system’s design, Kepler now sought better data.
He hoped that more accurate astronomical observations would prove his theory.
By great good fortune, at exactly the same time as Kepler sought better data, one of Europe’s foremost astronomers, Tycho Brahe, was hoping to recruit an assistant who could carry out astronomy calculations.
The two started working together, although it was not a match made in heaven! Brahe was notoriously quarrelsome – he had worn a metal nose ever since he lost his real nose in a duel fought over the merits of a particular mathematics formula!
Tycho Brahe’s DataEarly in the year 1600, Kepler moved from Graz to the town of Benatek, which today is in the Czech Republic. There Brahe, who was the Imperial Mathematician to Holy Roman Emperor Rudolph II, had an observatory.
Brahe gave Kepler access to some of his Mars observations, but not all. Then the pair fell out and Kepler spent some time in Prague, then Graz, before they resolved their differences and got together again.
During 1601, Kepler carried out calculations of planet movements for Brahe. In October 1601, Brahe died. Kepler replaced him as the Imperial Mathematician.
Kepler now had unrestricted access to all of Brahe’s astronomical data. With an incredible amount of hard work he began to deduce the laws that govern the movements of the planets. The first law he found is now called his second law!
Kepler’s Second Law – The Law of AreasKepler’s Second Law: a planet orbiting the sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times. In this image, the planet takes the same time to move from A to B as it does to move from C to D. The green and blue shaded areas are equal. The planet speeds up when it is closer to the sun.
From Brahe’s very precise observations, Kepler discovered that Mars does not move in a perfect circle around the sun. This was scandalous! Everyone ‘knew’ that heavenly bodies were perfect, traveling along a path whose shape was perfect – the circle.
It took a long time before people came to terms with Kepler’s shocking discovery and started to believe it. All the more so because the planets’ orbits are actually very close to circular.
It is a tribute to both the precision of Brahe’s observations and Kepler’s calculating prowess that Kepler was ever able to discover the truth.
Kepler found Mars was moving in an oval-like orbit and that sometimes it was closer to the sun than at others. When close to the sun, it moved faster than when it was farther away.
In 1602, Kepler deduced what came to be called his second law: a line drawn from planet to sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times.
Kepler’s First Law – The Law of OrbitsKepler tried to figure out the mathematical shape of Mars’s orbit. After about 40 misses, in 1605, he got it right. Mars follows an elliptical path around the sun.
And now he formulated what would become Kepler’s first law: planets orbit the sun in ellipses, with the sun at one focus.
You can draw an ellipse using pencil, paper, string and pushpins. The closer the pins are together, the closer your ellipse will be to circular. If points A and B coincide, you will draw a circle. A and B are the ellipse’s focuses.
Kepler’s Third Law – The Law of PeriodsKepler never gave up his idea that regular polygons determine the orbits of the planets. As a fortunate result of this wrong thinking, he continued calculating and theorizing.
In 1618 his continuing research led to his third law of planetary motion:
The square of the period of any planet is proportional to the cube of the semimajor axis of its orbit.
Restated crudely, this law means that if we square the time it takes a planet to complete one orbit around the sun, we’ll find it’s proportional to the planet’s distance from the sun cubed.
Even more crudely: the farther a planet is from the sun, the slower it moves along its orbital path.
Summing up Kepler’s Laws and their SignificanceIn a 17 year period, when he was aged between 30 and 47, Kepler took Copernicus’s mathematically flawed heliocentric solar system by the scruff of the neck and put it on a rock-solid mathematical footing.
During his own lifetime, the huge significance of his work won little or no recognition.
Later, however, his work provided the platform for Isaac Newton to discover the law of universal gravitation. When Newton (perhaps with double meaning) said that if he had seen further, it was by standing on the shoulders of giants, there can be no doubt that Johannes Kepler was one of the giants.
More of Kepler’s Achievements
The TidesAlthough he greatly admired Galileo’s work, Kepler disagreed with him about the cause of tides on Earth. Galileo believed they were caused by the earth spinning. Kepler, correctly, identified that they were caused by the moon.
Kepler wrote, about a ‘magnetic force’ which we would today call the force of gravity.
OpticsKepler made important discoveries in optics.
In 1604, Kepler discovered the inverse square law of light intensity.
If you double your distance from the sun, the amount of light reaching you is lowered by a factor of four. If you triple your distance from the sun, the amount of light you get is reduced by a factor of nine.The consequence of this law is, for example, that while Jupiter is about five times farther than Earth from the sun, each square meter of Jupiter receives only one-twenty-fifth of the sun’s energy compared with a square meter on Earth.
When Newton, guided by Kepler’s Third Law, discovered the law of universal gravitation, he found that gravity also follows an inverse square law. So, if you triple your distance from the sun, the force of gravity you feel is divided by nine.
Everything is Upside Down
It was Kepler who discovered that the lenses in our eyes invert images. This means images on our retinas are upside down. Kepler correctly concluded that the inverted image is corrected by our brains.
Designing a Better Telescope
In 1610 Kepler was excited by news from Italy, where Galileo had discovered four moons orbiting Jupiter.
In 1611 Kepler turned his attention to Galileo’s telescope design, improving it by using two convex lenses. This allowed higher magnifications. Kepler’s design is now the standard design for refracting telescopes.
Kepler’s ‘Last Theorem’Fermat’s Last Theorem, sometimes called Fermat’s Conjecture, took over 300 years to prove.
Kepler left the world a puzzle that resisted all attempts at formal proof for 400 years: the Kepler Conjecture.
Kepler’s Conjecture looks at how you can pack a bunch of equally sized spheres into the smallest possible space; he says there are two most efficient ways: cubic close packing and hexagonal close packing.
Kepler was right. A formal proof of his conjecture was published in 2015 by Thomas Hales and coworkers.
It is impossible to pack spheres more efficiently than the arrangements shown in the image: cubic close packing and hexagonal close packing. Image original by Cdang, then modified.It turns out that Kepler’s ideas about packing are useful in modern chemistry, where atoms in metals are arranged in close packed arrangements: for example copper’s atoms are cubic close packed, while magnesium’s atoms are hexagonal close packed.
LogarithmsIn 1616 Kepler became aware of John Napier’s invention of logarithms.
Using logarithms, any multiplication can be turned into an addition; any division can be turned into a subtraction.
For example, adding 3.5627685 to 3.7736402 by hand is much easier than multiplying 3654 times 59And in Kepler’s day, everything had to be calculated by hand!
Napier’s logarithms allowed mathematicians to greatly simplify their calculations. Kepler was overjoyed when he learned of them. And no wonder: he carried out a huge number of calculations in his work, and logarithms sped everything up enormously.
But Kepler went one step further.
Mathematicians had not been able to understand how logarithms worked. They just saw that they seemed to give the right answers.
Kepler saw that if logarithms actually had no firm mathematical basis, his calculations might be discredited someday.
He overcame this hurdle in the way any genius would – he himself proved how logarithms transform multiplications and divisions into additions and subtractions.
Kepler’s proof allowed all mathematicians to use logarithms with no misgivings.
The EndIn Kepler’s time, Central Europe was convulsed with tensions between Catholicism and Protestantism – resulting in the Thirty Years’ War.
Symbolic of the paranoia of these times, Kepler’s nature loving, herbalist mother was arrested in Württemberg in 1620, charged with witchcraft. She was held in prison for over a year, and the tortures she faced if she did not confess to witchcraft were described to her in detail. Kepler himself traveled to Württemberg and successfully defended his mother, finally winning her release.
Kepler moved around a lot during the last few years of his life. His job as a mathematician disappeared and, in an effort to make ends meet, he ended up casting horoscopes for a military commander – General Wallenstein.
Johannes Kepler died after falling ill at the age of 58, on November 15, 1630 in the German city of Regensburg. He was survived by a son and a daughter from his first marriage, to Barbara Müller, who died rather young. He was also survived by his second wife, Susanna Reuttinger, and two sons and a daughter from that marriage.
Today Kepler’s grave is lost. The graveyard he was buried in was destroyed during religious battles a few years after he was buried.
Who is John Archibald Wheeler: Biography
Early Life and Educational BackgroundJohn Archibald Wheeler was born on the 9th of July, 1911 in Jacksonville, Florida to his librarian parents Mabel Archibald Wheeler and Joseph Lewis Wheeler. In 1926, he finished his high school education from the Baltimore City College and in 1933, was able to earn his doctorate after finishing his studies in the John Hopkins University. His research work and dissertation about the dispersion as well as absorption of helium had been carried out with Karl Herzfeld supervising him. Karl Herzfeld is also a notable name in the field of physics especially for his work on kinetic theory and ultrasonics.
His career in the academe began in 1935 at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Three years later, however, he moved to Princeton University and this was where he stayed until 19After his time in Princeton, he worked at the University of Texas for ten years until 1986, where he was made the director of The Center for Theoretical Physics.
Compared to other scholars who focused on their work for science, Wheeler gave a high importance to his teaching career. This was seen and proved because even after he was already a famous physicist, he still taught physics to freshmen as well as sophomore students with the thought that young minds were the most important minds. Some of his most famous students were Kip Thorne, Richard Feynman, Jacob Bekenstein, and Hugh Everett. When he died in the year 2008, he had been able to supervise more PhD and senior undergraduates who were working on their theses compared to any other professor in Princeton’s physics department.
Contributions to PhysicsHe made a number of important contributions to physics, especially particle physics. It was in 1937 when he introduced what is now known as the S-Matrix, which is now an indispensable tool for the study of particle physics. He had also been one of the proponents of nuclear fission alongside Enrico Fermi and Niels Bohr. Two years after he created the S-Matrix, he along with Niels Bohr, worked on the liquid drop model used for nuclear fission.
The Manhattan Project and Wheeler’s Personal InvolvementJohn Archibald Wheeler was 33 when he received a postcard from his brother, Joe, who was fighting in the front lines back in the Second World War. The postcard had just two words and it read: “Hurry up.” Joe had been aware of what John Archibald was working on, and hoped that by this time, whatever comes from the nuclear fission experiments can also be used for the Second World War, and to help end it.
Wheeler then worked as quickly as he possibly could, and he was able to do so at the Manhattan Project at the Hanford Site in Washington. The project was completed, and it was in Jornada del Muerto Desert in New Mexico where physicists detonated the first ever nuclear explosion in the history of mankind. In Hanford, John Archibald was hoping that he wasn’t too late in making this happen. Little did he know that around that time, Joe had already been dead.
He was devastated after learning the news, and he had hoped that if they started earlier and completed sooner, he could have helped save millions of lives—including his brother Joe’s. After the conclusion of his work in the Manhattan Project, he went back to Princeton University to get back to his academic career.
Latter YearsIt was in 1957 when he introduced the term “wormhole” to the scientific community. He had been working on mathematical extensions concerning the Theory of General Relativity when he described the wormholes as “tunnels” in the space-time continuum. He was able to work on geometrodynamics which was concerned with electromagnetism and gravitation, mainly the geometrical properties of the curved space-time continuum. Since it was aiming at identifying matter and space, it was thought that geometrodynamics was the continuation of philosophy (of nature) as thought of by Spinoza and Descartes. However, the geometrodynamics idea of Wheeler was unable to explain some important observed physical phenomena such as why electrons, muons, and fermions exist. Because of this, he abandoned this theory in the 1970s.
In 1967 he used the term black hole when he gave a talk at the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies. He had also been a pioneer when it comes to quantum gravity, which is what happens to be the “wave function of the Universe.”
In 1979, he had some words with the American Association for the Advancement of Science when he asked them to expel parapsychology which he called as a kind of pseudoscience. It was admitted as a kind of scientific field ten years earlier after Margaret Mead requested it. He said that he did not oppose the research which parapsychology does, but that it should have more convincing tests before being part of the AAAs. His request was not granted and parapsychology is still credited by the AAAS to this day.
In 1997, he was awarded the Wolf Prize in Physics because of his contributions, which included the Participatory Anthropic Principle during his time in Princeton among other significant contributions to physics. It was on the 13th of April when he died from pneumonia. He was 96, and he died in Hightstown, New Jersey.
Who is John Bardeen: Biography
Early Life and Education:Born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1908, John Bardeen’s father was a Professor of Anatomy and the first Dean of the Medical School at the University of Wisconsin. He acquired a BS degree in electrical engineering from the same university in 1928, and after one year, his MS degree in 1929.
Following a few years of research work in geophysics, Bardeen took another degree in mathematical physics from Princeton University, receiving a Ph.D. in 1936.
Contributions and Achievements:After years of research work at the universities of Minnesota and Harvard, in addition to the Naval Ordonnance Lab in Washington DC, John Bardeen finally joined the solid state physics group at Bell Labs in New Jersey in 19He developed an interest in semiconductor research and collaborated with Brattain and Shockley to discover the transistor effect in semiconductors in 19His efforts laid the foundation for the modern age of electronics and computers.
Bardeen left Bell Labs and accepted a teaching position at University of Illinois in 19At this place, he worked with with Cooper and Schrieffer to formulate the first successful microscopic theory of superconductivity, which was later termed as the BCS theory. Bardeen was awarded the Nobel Prize twice for his efforts, and he remains the only person in history to have two prizes in the same domain.
He revolutionized the fields of electrical engineering and solid slate physics. The transistor is often recognized as the most influential invention of the twentieth century.
Later Life and Death:Bardeen died of heart disease on January 30, 1991 in Boston, Massachusetts, where he had come to Brigham and Women’s Hospital for medical treatment. He was buried in Forest Hill Cemetery. John Bardeen was named by Life Magazine among the 100 most influential people of the twentieth century.
Who is John Dalton: Biography
John Dalton’s Early Life and EducationJohn Dalton was born on September 6, 1766, in Eaglesfield, England.
His father was a weaver, who owned a house and a small amount of land. Both of his parents were Quakers.
Although Quakers were Christians, they were seen as dissenters by the established Church of England. As a result of this, John Dalton’s higher educational opportunities were restricted to dissenting places of education.
John Dalton was an intelligent child, who took an interest in the world around him and tried to learn as much as he could about everything.
He attended his village school until he was 11, and then began helping as a teacher.
At age 15, he started helping his older brother John to run a Quaker boarding-school in the town of Kendal, 40 miles from his home. All the while, he continued teaching himself science, mathematics, Latin, Greek and French. By the time he was 19, he had become the school’s principal, continuing in this role until he was 26 years old.
It seems that the school’s students liked Dalton teaching them, one of them recalling:
“The boys (were) all glad to be taught by John Dalton, because he had a gentler disposition; and besides his mind was so occupied with mathematics, that their faults escaped his notice.”
Becoming a ScientistIn the first half of 1793, aged 26, Dalton took the position of teacher of mathematics and natural philosophy at Manchester’s New College, a dissenting college.
In 1794, he wrote his first scientific paper which he called: Extraordinary Facts Relating to the Vision of Colours.
This was the first ever paper to discuss color blindness. Dalton had realized the condition was hereditary, because he and other members of his family had it.
Ultimately, Dalton’s theory for color blindness was wrong, but as he was the first person ever to research it, the condition became known as Daltonism.
Further research papers followed, in the physical sciences: heat conduction, gas expansion by heat, the properties of light, the aurora borealis, and meteorology.
In 1800, Dalton began earning a living as a private tutor in science and mathematics. He resigned from New College, which was in financial difficulty.
The Behavior of GasesIn 1801, Dalton gave a series of lectures in Manchester whose contents were published in 18In these lectures he presented research he had been carrying out into gases and liquids. This research was groundbreaking, offering great new insights into the nature of gases.
Firstly, Dalton stated correctly that he had no doubt that all gases could be liquified provided their temperature was sufficiently low and pressure sufficiently high.
He then stated that when its volume is held constant in a container, the pressure of a gas varies in direct proportion to its temperature.
This was the first public statement of what eventually became known as Gay-Lussac’s Law, named after Joseph Gay-Lussac who published it in 1809.
In 1803, Dalton published his Law of Partial Pressures, still used by every university chemistry student, which states that in a mixture of non-reacting gases, the total gas pressure is equal to the sum of the partial pressures of the individual gases.
By now, Dalton’s work had distinguished him as a scientist of the first rank, and he was invited to give lectures to the Royal Institution in London.
Dalton and AtomsHis study of gases led Dalton to wonder about what these invisible substances were actually made of.
The idea of atoms had first been proposed more than 2000 years earlier by Democritus in Ancient Greece. Democritus believed that everything was made of tiny particles called atoms and that these atoms could not be split into smaller particles. Was Democritus right? Nobody knew!
Dalton was now going to solve this 2000 year-old mystery.
He carried out countless chemical reactions, and in 1808 published what we now call Dalton’s Law in his book A New System of Chemical Philosophy:
If two elements form more than one compound between them, then the ratios of the masses of the second element which combine with a fixed mass of the first element will be ratios of small whole numbers.
For example, Dalton found that 12 grams of carbon could react with 16 grams of oxygen to form the compound we now call carbon monoxide or with 32 grams of oxygen to form carbon dioxide. The ratio of oxygen masses of 32:16, which simplifies to 2:1 intrigued Dalton. Analyzing all of the data he had collected, Dalton stated his belief that matter exists as atoms. He went further than Democritus, by stating that atoms of different elements have different masses. He also published diagrams showing, for example:
How atoms combine to form molecules
Here, at the top of his diagram, Dalton assigns atom 1 to be hydrogen, 2 nitrogen, 3 carbon, 4 oxygen, 5 phosphorus, etc.
He then shows how molecules might look when the atoms combine to form compounds. For example, molecule 21 is water (OH), 22 is ammonia (NH) and 23 is nitrogen oxide (NO). Of these molecules, the modern reader will notice that Dalton got molecules 21 and 22 wrong.
This was initially less important than the fact that Dalton’s system of atoms and molecules is almost identical to how we might represent them today. For example, Dalton’s molecule 28 is carbon dioxide. Today, we would still draw carbon dioxide in this way.
Amedeo Avogadro soon published work that built on Dalton’s and corrected some of Dalton’s errors – such as finding that water should be written H20 – but unfortunately Avogadro’s work was ignored for many years, partly because it disagreed with Dalton’s.
How molecules of water might look in ice
Here Dalton shows how water molecules might arrange themselves when they are frozen in ice. We use similar diagrams today to show how atoms and molecules arrange themselves in crystals.
Dalton’s Atomic Theory states that:
All atoms of a particular element are identical.
Atoms of different elements have different properties: their masses are different, and their chemical reactions are different.
Atoms cannot be created, destroyed or split.
In a chemical reaction, atoms link to one another, or separate from one another.
Atoms combine in simple whole-number ratios to form compounds.
Although we have learned that atoms of the same element can have different masses (isotopes), and can be split in nuclear reactions, most of Dalton’s Atomic Theory holds good today, over 200 years after John Dalton described it. It is the foundation on which modern chemistry has been built.
HonorsDalton did not marry and had no children. He remained a faithful Quaker all of his life, living modestly.
In 1810, he declined an invitation to become a member of the Royal Society. In 1822, he was elected without his knowledge. In 1826, he was awarded the Society’s Royal Medal for his Atomic Theory.
In 1833, the French Academy of Sciences elected him as one of its eight foreign members. In 1834, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences elected him as a foreign member.
The EndWhen he was 71 years old, Dalton had a small stroke – or paralysis as it was known then. A year later, a more significant stroke left him unable to speak as clearly as he once could. In 1844, when he was 77, another stroke hit him. He died aged 77 on July 27, 1844.
His scientific reputation was so great that when his body was placed in Manchester Town Hall it was visited by more than 40,000 people paying their respects. John Dalton was buried in Manchester in Ardwick cemetery.
Who is John Locke: Biography
Early Life and Education:Born in Somerset, England in 1932, John Locke’s father was a prominent country lawyer. He was raised in a rural house in Belluton. Locke attended the famous Westminster School in London, and was later admitted to Christ Church, Oxford. He acquired a bachelor’s degree in 1656 and a master’s degree in 16He also obtained a bachelor of medicine in 1674.
Contributions and Achievements:John Locke is widely considered to be one of the greatest English philosophers and a leading figure in the fields of epistemology, metaphysics, and political philosophy. He also made crucial contributions to education, theology, medicine, physics, economics, and politics. Locke’s empiricist epistemology (he was the founder of empiricist theory of knowledge) inspired Berkeley, Hume, and the later years of empiricism.
Locke’s political philosophy is often noted with shaping both the American Constitution and the French Revolution and laid the groundwork for liberal political thought. He was the first person to explain the self through a continuity of consciousness. He proposed that the mind was a blank slate or tabula rasa. Some of the Locke’s most noted works are “An Essay Concerning Human Understanding”, “Two Treatises of Government”, and “A Letter Concerning Toleration”.
Later Life and Death:Locke never married in his lifetime. He died in 1704 at the age of He was buried in the churchyard of the village of High Laver, Essex.
Who is John Logie Baird: Biography
Early Life: John Logie Baird is a very famous Scottish inventor who was born in 1888 in Scotland. He played a vital role in the invention of the television and it was his invention of photomechanical television that broadcasted the transmission live for the first time ever. He studied at the University of Glasgow and also at Royal Technical College. It was due to his unstable health that he could not participate in World War I and he was enforced to give up his electric engineering post. After that he tried out many activities and tried to figure out his areas of interest as he had declared himself as a “Professional Amateur”.
Contributions and Achievements: It was after his nervous breakdown that he started paying attention to electronics. Marconi’s explanation about the travelling of radio waves was his area of concentration. He was almost sure that visual signals could also be transmitted through the same process. With his firm believe he started working on his project. The basic design of Baird contained a scanning disk named Nipkow disk after its German inventor, Paul Nipkow, which was developed in 18This device was made up of a disk made out of cardboard that had square holes in it in series, spirally placed. The Nipkow disk scanned light and dark areas when it spun with the photoelectric cell. This process converted into electrical signals. When two such disks worked in synchronization, the signals were again translated into visual images.
Baird made innovations in this idea of Nipkow and added a feature to it which could transmit signals through electromagnetic waves instead of cable wires. The innovation was not appreciated and financed much by the investors. Throughout this time, Baird took odd jobs such salesman for razor blade and a shoe shiner just to earn enough money to support himself and buy his tools. Many of his inventions involved the use of household items like string, bicycle lamps, cake tin and knitting needles etc. Finally on October 2, 1925 he accomplished in transmitting the picture of the dummy of ventriloquist from his attic’s one end to another. He got really excited and ran to the nearest shop to convince a boy to be a part of his television transmission. This invention gave fame to Baird in a jiffy also arouse interest of the investors. A television signal was sent by him from London to Glasgow in 1927 and from London to New York later in 19The only problem was this design produced poor quality image. Vladimir Zworykin’s design of cathode ray tube substituted Baird’s design. Baird still helped in developing improved designs of televisions. He also helped with the colored television and large and wide screen projection which he thought would later be used for movie projection for public. Baird passed away in 1946 when he was 58.
Who is John Napier: Biography
Early Life and Education:John Napier was a very famous mathematician of his time and he was born in 1550 in Edinburgh, Scotland. His father was Sir Archibald Napier. Logarithms and the decimals’ modern notations were introduced by him. He was very bright and he got admitted in the University of St. Andrews only when he was thirteen years old. It is also said that he had probably also studied at some universities in France and Italy etc.
Napier came back to his homeland by 1571 and got married to Elizabeth Stirling the very next year. At the castle of Gartnes, Napier had enough time to explore his interests in the field of religious politics, agriculture and mathematics.
Contributions and Achievements: A Calvinist was set to drive away Catholicism from Scotland at any cost. There was a scheme named as Spanish Blanks against which Napier revolted with a certain book called A Plaine Discovery of the Whole Revelation of St. John (1594). Napier set up four new kinds of weapons to make the struggle more powerful. The weapons included an artillery piece, a kind of battle vehicle that was covered with plates of metal and had tiny opening for emitting odious smoke and firepower and two kinds of burning mirrors. The vehicle was driven by men inside.
Soon the Catholic or Spanish conquest was over and that led Napier to get back to his work. He promoted the use of common salt and manure for soil improvement in agriculture. In math, he made remarkable discoveries that were accurate and were accepted all over the world. His technique of calculation of log got published in 1614 Mirifici logarithmorum canonis description. The technique was found to be really accurate that his work was translated into different languages and also widely printed. It helped in the trigonometric calculations in astronomy and navigation. His work about the computation of logarithm in 1920 Mirifici logarithmorum canonis constructio was published even after his death.
A copy of Napier’s work of 1614 was sent to a professor of Gresham College, Henry Briggs. Briggs made Napier’s method even easier by setting log of 1 at zero. Napier agreed with it but left the responsibility of setting up the new logarithm table by Briggs’ plan on Briggs. It was published in 1624 and was called table of common logarithms.
For more than twenty years, Napier worked on a very complex that held a great value to physical science. A device named Napier’s rods or bones shows creativeness of his mind in the field of mathematics. Many mathematical functions like multiplication and division could be done mechanically. This device helped in analog computers and slide rules. Rabdologiae; seu Numerationes per Virgulas libri duo is the work published about his work in two volumes in 16He passed away the same year on the 4th of April.
Sources: Famous Scientists