Pioneers Of Thermal Conductivity Measurements Gustav R. Kirchhoff

Gustav R. Kirchhoff

German physicist, Gustav R. Kirchhoff graduated from the University of Königsberg, Germany, in 1847, with a degree in mathematical physics. He then earned his teaching rights from the University of Breslau in 1848, where he began lecturing. While still a student, Kirchhoff, with the help of Wilhelm Weber, also a German physicist, challenged Ohm’s theory of electrical current (1828), with their own theory, in 1857. An accidental discovery of the relationship between emissive and absorptive power occurred, allowing Kirchhoff to coin the term “black body” emissions, which led to the discovery of his second law of thermodynamics and the theory of radiation. It was Kirchhoff who proposed the equation that stated the difference in heat capacity between products and reactants, accounts for the variation of heat in a chemical reaction. In 1860, Kirchhoff helped lead Robert Bunsen to the discovery of two novel chemical elements; cesium and rubidium, thanks to his extraordinary knowledge of spectral analysis. Kirchhoff was the first ever recipient of the Davy Medal in 1877, for his contributions in spectrum analysis. Later that year, he was also presented with the Matteucci Medal. In 1887, mere months after his death, Kirchhoff was also the first to be awarded the Janssen Medal, similarly for his work in spectroscopy. With the contribution of such a vital heat capacity equation, it is no wonder he is considered a founding grandfather of thermal conductivity.


Most Cited Works by Gustav R. Kirchhoff:

Ueber die Auflösung der Gleichungen, auf welche man bei der Untersuchung der linearen Vertheilung Galvanischer Ströme geführt wird
English Version: On the Solution of the Equations Obtained from the Investigation of the Linear Distribution of Galvanic Currents
Annalen der Physik 148.12 (1847): 497-508.
Gustav R. Kirchhoff
Ueber den Einfluss der Wärmeleitung in einem Gase auf die Schallbewegung
English Version: On the Influence of Heat Conduction in a Gas on Sound Propagation
Annalen der Physik 210.6 (1868): 177-193.
Gustav R. Kirchhoff
English Version: Mechanic
Рипол Классик, 1875.
Gustav R. Kirchhoff


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  1. Everest, A S (1969). “Kirchhoff-Gustav Robert 1824–1887”. Physics Education. 4 (6): 341.