Illustrious Scientists

Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastácio VoltaAlessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastásio Volta

Italian self-taught scientist who devoted himself to building the first electric battery.

Birth: February 18, 1745
Death: March 05, 1827

Alessandro Giuseppe Antonio Anastasio Volta was born in the city of Como in northern Italy, a region that at the time was controlled by Austria. The youngest son of the ex-Jesuit Filippo Volta, Alessandro saw all his six brothers and sisters become religious and, as a consequence, the doctrine of the Church was an important part of his formation. At the age of 7, after his father’s death, Volta went to live with an uncle, also a religious man, who took up his education and enrolled him in the local Jesuit college, where his mental agility soon caught the attention of the teachers.

In 1765, at the age of 20, Volta and a friend, the canon Giulio Cesare Gattoni, leased a property where they installed the city’s first lightning rod, a scientific laboratory and a museum with natural history collections. There, the self-taught Volta completed his first study on how to get electricity through friction and designed a machine to take harness of the electrical properties of silk. In 1769 he published a dissertation in which he reinterpreted Benjamin Franklin’s theory and developed the concept that all matter has an balanced electric fluid that could be released if that balance was broken by friction or pressure.

In 1774, Volta was hired as a physics teacher at a high school in Como, and the following year, he invented the electrophore, a device that could accumulate and permanently maintain static electricity. In 1778, Volta isolated methane gas, which earned him a good reputation in the scientific world and support to an official trip, offered by the Austrian government, to the main centres of education in Europe. In 1779, at age 34, he took the chair of physics at the University of Pavia, where he continued his research and invented other devices involving static electricity. In 1791, Volta was appointed member and received the Copley medal, from the Royal Society of London.

His most important invention came in the 1800s when, after studying Luigi Galvani’s notes on the agitated movements of a dead frog, Volta demonstrated that the origin of the electric current discovered by Galvani was not in the frog itself, but in the contact of its nerves with metals, in an ionized medium. To prove his theory, Volta piled copper and zinc disks separated by smaller flannel discs and cards soaked in salt water and sulfuric acid, and built the first chemical battery, source of continuous electric current. His invention was presented on March 20th of that year to the other members of the Royal Society, and in 1801, at the invitation of Napoleon, he went to Paris to give a demonstration of his research. In the French capital, he received from the emperor the medal of the Legion of Honour, and was made senator of the kingdom of Lombardy.

Although his main research has been in the field of electricity, Volta has also developed important works on the industrial manufacturing of vaccines and asbestos, Meteorology and pneumatics. The unit of tension, or electromotive force, was given the name volt in his honour.

Tags: Scientist, Volta, Italy, Battery, 18th Century

Andre Marie AmpereAndré Marie Ampère

French professor, physicist, mathematician, chemist and philosopher whose studies were the foundation of electrodynamics.

Birth: January 22, 1775
Death: June 10, 1836

André Marie Ampère was born in Lyon, France, in 1775. His father, Jean-Jacques, was a merchant and, soon after the birth of his son, moved with his family to the nearby town of Poleymieux. From an early age, Ampère demonstrated to be passionate about mathematics and studied alone, in his father’s library, the theory of numbers and geometry. Meanwhile, his mother Jeanne, a devout woman, made sure her son also received instruction in the Catholic faith. Of these two aspects, his interest in metaphysics was born, which shaped his relationship with science. In 1793, in the period of terror that followed the French Revolution, his father was tried and executed in the guillotine. After that, for a year, Ampère isolated himself, minimizing his contact with the outside world. It was during this time that she met Julie Carron, who would become his companion.

His affection for Julie brought him the joy of living again, and Ampère, renewed, began to teach mathematics in Lyon. In 1802, he began working on an original article on theory of probability applied to gambling, whose success earned him a teaching job at the École Polytechnique de Paris, and earned him admission to the Académie des Sciences.

From then on, Ampère began to have a goal in his research: to discover the relations between phenomena and to create a theory in which these relations could be deduced mathematically. Thus, he began his studies trying to discover the relation between electricity and magnetism. He wanted to prove that magnetism was nothing more than electricity in motion, so he was the first to use the term electric current. In 1827, he developed the electrodynamic model in which he described the laws of electric currents action, demonstrating, mathematically, the equality of the values of repulsion and attraction. In that same year, Ampère presented to the Academy further studies, laying the scientific foundations that unified the fields of electricity and magnetism, into a complete theory.

However, not everyone accepted his ideas, and his main opponent, Michael Faraday, said that they were based on hypotheses for which there was no evidence. Ampère’s theory, however, was accepted by William Weber and became the basis of all his studies. At the end of his life, Ampère devoted himself to concluding his essay on philosophy of science and a classification of the sciences. He died in Marseilles, and in his honour ampere is the unit of measure of electric current intensity (a coulomb per second) in the International System of Units.

Tags: Scientist, Ampère, France, Electric Current, 18th Century

Benjamin FranklinBenjamin Franklin

A typographer, essayist, civic leader, scientist, statesman, diplomat and hero of American independence who discovered countless properties of electricity.

Birth: January 17, 1706
Death: April 17, 1790

Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston in 1706 to a humble and numerous family – he had 16 siblings – whose financial difficulties caused him to be taken out of school at the age of 10 to work with his father making soap and tallow candles. Determined to study, the boy used the money he made buying books. Three years later, the family decided that Franklin should change areas and put him to work as an apprentice in his brother James’s printing press. In 1723, at age 17, Franklin moved to Philadelphia, finding a printer’s job, taking the time off to study English, science, French, and Latin, and learning to play various instruments. In 1730, he opened his own print shop, founded the newspaper The Pennsylvania Gazette (later Saturday Evening Post). Three years later, under the pseudonym Richard Saunders, he published “Poor Richard’s Almanac,” a collection of anecdotes and popular proverbs, a book that made him famous.

Throughout the 1730s, Franklin also acted in public life, founding the first travelling library in the United States, the Philadelphia Fire Department, and the Philadelphia College and Academy, which later became the University of Pennsylvania. In the 1740s, after becoming General Magazine’s editor, Franklin decided to leave his business on the care of his partner David Hall, to devote himself only to politics, public life, and experimental science, especially to study of electricity. He organized a club of lectures and debates, that gave rise to the American Society of Philosophy, and helped to found the state hospital.

In 1748, Franklin achieved his first important scientific result by analysing a bottle that accumulated electricity, designed by the Dutch professor of the University of Leyden, Pieter van Musschenbroek (1692-1761). Leyden’s bottle, as it is known, is a primitive type of condenser or capacitor, with which Franklin discovered the two “states of electricity,” which he then called positive and negative charges, terms used to date. During the 1750s, Franklin excelled in the scientific world by publishing articles in leading journals in the area, and receiving honorary graduations from Harvard and Yale universities, as well as various awards including the Copley Medal from the Royal Society of London. His first successful scientific book, “Experiments and Observations on Electricity”, of 1751, had great repercussions.

A year later, he began to study the bodies’ ability to attract or repel electricity and decided to make an unprecedented experiment in Marly, France. He laid a long pointed shaft along a building, certain that the rod could draw the “electric fire” from the clouds and lead it directly to the earth. To prove his theory, Franklin had one of his servants holding a wax bar through which a wire went through, connecting the rod to the floor. The lightning came, went through the rod and the wire, and the man was not injured, protected by the wax bar and a clean, dry platform that worked as insulators. It was the first lightning rod. Still in 1752, Franklin carried out the experience that made him famous all over the world. Aiming to prove the electrification of clouds, he flew a kite during a storm, proving that lightning are electric discharges that can be captured and conducted through wires.

In 1760, in his parallel studies of optics, Franklin invented bifocals. In 1775, he returned to Philadelphia, convinced that the war for the independence of the United States was imminent. A year later, designated delegate to the II Continental Congress, Franklin was part, with Thomas Jefferson and Samuel Adams, of the committee that drafted the American Declaration of Independence. He then left for France as ambassador, seeking help for the United States, signing the treaty of alliance between the two countries, and a peace treaty with Great Britain. Back in Philadelphia in 1785, he was received as a hero and elected president of Pennsylvania. As a delegate to the convention that drafted the American Constitution, Franklin tried in vain to abolish slavery. As a tribute, the Americans put Franklin’s effigy on the US$100 bill.

Tags: Scientist, Franklin, USA, Electricity, 18th Century

Emile BerlinerEmil Berliner

German inventor, naturalized American, who invented the gramophone and perfected the telephone.

Birth: May 03, 1851
Death: August 03, 1929

Emil Berliner was born in 1851 in Hanover, Germany, having emigrated to the United States in 1870, settling in Washington. While working in a stable, he became interested in the newly-created telephone technology, and started researching to improve the transmitter of Alexander Graham Bell, one of the earliest types of microphone. In 1876, Berliner applied for a series of patents for improvements in Bell’s apparatus and was hired as Chief Inspector of the Bell Telephone Company in Boston, where he worked from 1877 to 1883.

In 1885, upon returning to Washington, Berliner began experimenting with new methods of sound recording, with the intention of replacing Thomas Alva Edison’s phonograph cylinders, which worn out easily. In 1887, after a few months of work, Berliner received the first patent on the device he called the gramophone, and the following year, introduced the first recordable floppy disk.

The prototype, however, did not pick any interest, and for many years Berliner was unable to find a sponsor – no one believed in the commercial future of the gadget with a huge bell, designed to extract sounds from a circular disk made of zinc, 12 centimetres in diameter, which rotated at 150 revolutions per minute and played for only one minute.

In 1895, Berliner finally persuaded the Pennsylvania Railroad Company to invest US$25,000 in the project and carried out the research that enabled him to register the Deutsche Grammophon Gesellschaft in Hanover, Germany, in November 1898. In the United States, in 1901, Berliner joined Eldridge Johnson, a spin engine engineer, and founded the Victor Talking Machine Company. After Berliner passed away, in 1926, Eldridge Johnson sold the Victor Talking Machine Company to a bank that re-sold it to Radio Corporation of America (RCA).

Tags: Scientist, Berliner, USA, Gramophone, 19th Century

Etienne-Jules MareyEtiènne-Jules Marey

Physiologist and photographer who became one of the forerunners of the cinema.

Birth: March 05, 1830
Death: May 21, 1904

The Frenchman Etiènne-Jules Marey was born in 1830 in Beaune. A medical graduate, he majored in human and animal physiology, and began his career as an assistant surgeon in 1855. From the outset of his practice, Marey rejected methods of sensory-only symptom analysis, preferring to make his diagnosis based on results obtained by machines.

Following his time as an assistant professor at the Lyon Veterinary School, Marey developed his own instruments to improve and refine existing instruments, especially those that measured blood circulation. The first device developed was the sphygmograph, in 1860, which allowed the recording of blood pressure waves in human pulsations. The sphygmograph was comprised of a sensor that rested on the patient’s wrist and was attached to a very light metal lever. The signals emitted by the sensor caused the lever to move marking a smoked paper, traced by a clock mechanism. Marey’s cardiovascular monitoring methods have enabled the standardization of medical instruments so that they could be used in clinical diagnoses anywhere.

In 1868, after being appointed professor of Natural History at the Collège de France, Marey fell in love with photography and began to study the flight of insects and moving horses. To better observe the animals he was studying, Marey invented the chronograph in 1870, an instrument capable of measuring the time intervals between sequential photographs. In 1887, he introduced the chronophotograph, which allowed him to assemble several images on strips of paper that were automatically moved through a machine also invented by him. Marey’s new equipment traced the strips of paper and reproduced them at 23 frames per second, providing a series of successive projections at such short intervals that the viewer saw the complete movement in all its stages. For this invention, some consider him the true father of the cinema, instead of the Lumière brothers.

Etiènne-Jules Marey was president of the French Photographic Society and, in the final years of his life, devoted himself to the study of aerodynamics, based on the flight of birds.

Tags: Scientist, Marey, France, Photography, 19th Century

Georg Simon OhmGeorg Simon Ohm

German physicist, chemist and professor, discoverer of the fundamentals of electrokinetics, branch that studies the electric currents in movement.

Birth: March 16, 1789
Death: July 06, 1854

Georg Simon Ohm was born in Erlangen in 1789, the son of a prosperous self-taught locksmith master who admired mathematics, physics, chemistry and philosophy. Ohm studied at the school of his home city that emphasized the learning of interpretation and translation of texts, and graduated in physics from the University of Erlangen in 1813, soon being hired as a mathematics teacher in an education institute in Gottstad. In 1817 he received an invitation to teach mathematics and physics at the Jesuit school in Cologne, which encouraged scientific training and had a well-equipped laboratory.

It was in Cologne that he became interested in electricity and magnetism. His first scientific paper, published in 1825, focused on the conduction of electricity by certain metals. A year later, Ohm took temporary job to teach at the Berlin War School, where he hoped his qualifications would open doors to the dreamed university professor title. There he proved to be a skilled researcher, developing experiments with instruments that he made himself, and discovered the laws governing the conduction of electrical energy, conductive materials, semiconductors and resistances, and also relating potential, resistance and electric current. The result of these surveys was published in 1827.

In 1830, Ohm mathematically proved the phenomenon of batteries polarization, and began to measure the voltage of the electric currents using an electroscope. He found that the voltage of the currents in the batteries increased as the number of metal pairs increased. The work did not find rapid recognition, largely because, at that time, scientists did not use mathematics in the study of physics. In 1833, Ohm obtained the long-awaited title of university professor, teaching at the Polytechnic of Nuremberg. In 1841 he had his work recognized abroad and received a Copley medal, from the Royal Society of London. But in Germany, his country of origin, however, his theories were only recognized later. In 1849, Ohm took the chair of experimental physics at the University of Munich, where he remained until his death. As homage, his last name was given to the unit of electrical resistance.

Tags: Scientist, Ohm, Germany, Electrokinetics, 18th Century

Alexander Graham BellAlexander Graham Bell

Scottish doctor and professor, naturalized North American, whose studies on the transmission of sound by electrical current gave origin to the telephone.

Birth: April 03, 1847
Death: August 02, 1922

Alexander Graham Bell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, son of Alexander Melville Bell, instructor for the hearing-impaired and a reference in speaking and voice correction. In his studies at Edinburgh High School and then at University College in London, Bell devoted himself to the diffusion of his father’s method of diction, which consisted of associating an image with each phonetic sound in order to communicate with the deaf and educate them more easily.

In 1870, when Bell contracted tuberculosis, the family decided to emigrate to Canada, where they remained for a brief period, but as early as 1872, he was in Germany, where he graduated in medicine. He then settled in Boston and, thanks to his medical doctor degree and experience gained from his father, he opened a school to train deaf-mute instructors. His safe career allowed him to work quietly and devote himself to acoustic experiences, which had attracted his attention since college.

Bell began studies on the transmission of human voice in its multiple modulations. During this period, he gave private lessons to Mabel Hubbard, a deaf-mute girl, whom he eventually fell in love with and married. Mabel’s father, Gardner Hubbard, went on to fund Bell’s experiences and later became the first president of American Bell Telephone, a company founded by his son-in-law. In 1875, his research led Graham Bell to the invention of the microphone and, one year later, in 1876, to one of the most remarkable inventions of all time: the telephone, which turned the doctor into a prominent figure in the scientific and technological circles, but the invention almost fled his hands: Bell had to go to court to guarantee the patent of the new device and only obtained the non-action victory for having required it two hours before Elisha Gray.

In 1880, the French Academy of Sciences granted the Scottish inventor (only naturalized two years later) the Volta Prize, which he donated entirely for research on deafness. In 1890, a new prize: from the Paris Institute for improving the gramophone. In addition, Bell was president of the National Geographic Society of the United States between 1898 and 1903; founded the American Association of Teaching of the Deaf and Mute; was director of the Smithsonian Institute and the National Society of Geography of the United States, and professor of vocal physiology at Boston University. Bell also designed wireless communication systems such as the photophone, which transmitted sounds through light vibrations, and invented the audiometer, which measures hearing acuity. In 1915, the inventor made the first American transcontinental telephone call from New York to his assistant Thomas August Watson in San Francisco. Graham Bell spent the final years of his life on the island of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada, where he died.

Tags: Scientist, Bell, USA, Telephone, 19th Century

Guglielmo MarconiGuglielmo Marconi

Italian engineer Italian scientist, inventor of wireless telegraphy, known as the father of radio.

Birth: April 25, 1874
Death: July 20, 1937

The son of wealthy landowner Giuseppe Marconi and Irish-born Annie Jameson, Guglielmo Marconi was born in Bologna, Italy in 1874, but had a formal education limited to private lessons and a few years of study at Leghorn High School.

In 1894, Marconi, who worked for the Italian government, learned of Heinrich Hertz’s experiments with electromagnetic waves and was curious to know how far these waves could go. He then studied the subject with the help of Professor A. Righi, also from Bologna, until he was able to build his first device in 1895, using an oscillator invented by Hertz, an antenna created by the Russian physicist Alexander Stepanovich Popov, and a wave detector called coherer, invented by Edouard Branly.

Resenting the lack of support from the Italian government, Marconi moved to London in February 1896, seeking funding for his research. Until then, his transmissions did not exceed 1.5 miles, length of one of the family properties. With the collaboration of a cousin, Jameson Davis, Marconi successfully completed a demonstration of the wireless telegraph for men of the British government. The cousin also helped him prepare a patent application for his device and created the Wireless Telegraph and Signal Company, which in 1900 became the Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company.

In 1901, Marconi performed a transmission from Corsica, an island located in the Mediterranean Sea western of Italy, to the mainland. By this time he had already managed to extend the range of transmissions to 150 miles and decided to try transatlantic transmission. He then built a tower in Cornwall, England, and a large receiving antenna in Cape Cod, Massachusetts (USA), which was knocked down by strong winds. Marconi then replaced the tower with an antenna and a telephone receiver carried by a kite, which on December 12, 1901, received a coded signal of three dots, a feat that seemed impossible according to the thesis that the wireless telegraphy would be limited to short distances because of the Earth’s curvature. A year later, Marconi obtained the patent for a magnetic wave detector, and the following year his company set up a regular news service between the United Kingdom and the United States. In 1905, he received the patent of directional antennas and, in 1907, the radio began to be used commercially by the navigation industry.

For his contributions to the development of wireless communication, Marconi shared the 1909 Nobel Prize for Physics with the German Karl Ferdinand Braun. In 1912, he launched the spark-ignition system, the timed spark system, which allowed, ten years later, the connection between the United Kingdom and Australia. In Italy, Marconi was appointed senator in 1914, Marquis in 1929 and president of the Royal Academy in 1930. In 1931, Guglielmo Marconi who transmitted from Rome, in Italy, the signal that connected the lighting system of Cristo Redentor (Christ, the Redeemer Monument) in Rio de Janeiro .

Tags: Scientist, Marconi, Italy, Radio, 19th Century

Heinrich Rudolf HertzHeinrich Rudolf Hertz

Professor and physicist, pioneer in the artificial production of electromagnetic waves, essential to the development of radio, television and radar.

Birth: February 22, 1857
Death: January 01, 1894

The eldest son of Gustav Hertz, a prominent German lawyer and politician, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz began his studies at the age of six at the private school of Richard Lang. As a teenager, Hertz demonstrated talent for carpentry and acquired a lathe with which he began to produce spectral devices and other paraphernalia related to the study of physics.

After a brief period studying engineering at the University of Dresden, in 1877 Hertz transferred to the University of Munich, where he divided his time between the inclination for engineering and physics. After a year of studies in Munich, Hertz decided to move again, this time to Berlin, where he graduated in both disciplines and obtained a doctorate of philosophy. In 1880, after becoming an assistant to Professor Hermann Helmholtz, with whom he worked for three years, Hertz had a large physics laboratory at his disposal and began his studies on electricity. In 1883, Hertz went to teach theoretical physics at the University of Kiel, that had no laboratories, which led to his transfer to the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology in 1885.

In 1886, willing to win the Berlin Academy Award, which dealt with the theories of James Clerk Maxwell, Hertz developed the theories that would make him famous. A year later, he built an oscillator with which he was able to prove that electromagnetic waves propagated in space without the need for conductors. Another year and he confirmed that radio waves are similar to light waves, that is, invisible, but detectable, transmissible and reflectable, with the use of concave reflectors. He also discovered the photoelectric effect, a process through which electrons can be released from any material by the action of radiation. Hertz brought unprecedented clarity to Maxwell’s theories, organizing concepts so that other scientists could go further.

In 1889, he took the position of professor at the University of Bonn, and presented at the Heidelberg conference his work on electromagnetic waves. Hertz wrote several important books and his name has come to designate the unit of measurement of electric frequency and electromagnetic waves, produced by the oscillation of electricity in a conductor.

Tags: Scientist, Hertz, Germany, Radio, 19th Century

James Watt

James Watt

Engineer and chemist who developed the steam engine, equipment that made possible the industrial revolution.

Birth: January 19, 1736
Death: August 19, 1819

James Watt was born in Greenock, Scotland, the son of a naval builder and manufacturer of nautical instruments. His school attendance was rather uneven, due to his fragile health, and Watt absorbed most of his knowledge by working in his father’s workshop, where he learned woodworking, blacksmithing, tool making, and prototyping.

At age 18, having decided to pursue a career as a manufacturer of scientific instruments, Watt moved to Glasgow, which had become a major industrial centre. A year later, he moved again, this time to London, a city he soon abandoned because of the cold weather, which made him ill. Upon returning to Scotland in 1757, he was appointed instrumentalist for the laboratories of the University of Glasgow, thus finding ways to develop his technical and scientific work.

In 1765, Watt made his first and most important invention, patented four years later: the condenser for the steam engine of Thomas Newcomen. Newcomen’s machine was the most advanced of its time, but Watt noted that the loss of large amounts of heat was a serious defect. From theoretical studies on heat, elaborated by his colleague Joseph Black, Watt then idealized the condenser, a device that would be kept separate from the cylinder but connected to it. In the condenser, the steam temperature should be kept low (about 37°C) while in the cylinder it would remain high. To keep the condenser temperature low, Watt tried to achieve maximum vacuum by closing the previously open cylinder and completely eliminating the air. This created a more efficient steam engine. In the following years, he was further consecrated by a remarkable sequence of inventions that further perfected the steam engine, making it economically viable, and triggering the Industrial Revolution.

In addition to the numerous and notable contributions to steam technology, Watt also created a perspective drawing machine, a process for copying charts, a liquid indicator for testing acidity, and a steam wheel to produce rotational movements, and subsequently focused his interest on chemistry. In 1766, Watt closed his university workshop and opened an office of topographic survey and civil engineering, where he worked until 1774, when he moved to Birmingham. There, he formed a partnership with Matthew Boulton to market his steam engine improvement project. Watt became a member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh and his London counterpart, and retired in 1800, with great accumulated fortune. He died in Heathfield Hall, near Birmingham. In the International System of Units, watt designates the unit of measurement for electrical power.

Tags: Scientist, Watt, Scotland, United Kingdom, Steam, 18th Century

John Logie BairdJohn Logie Baird

Scottish electrical engineer considered the father of television.

Birth: August 13, 1888
Death: July 14, 1946

John Logie Baird was born in Helenburg, Scotland, in 1888, and studied electrical engineering at Royal Technical College and the University of Glasgow. From early on, Baird showed an inventor’s aptitude, but his ideas generally did not work: he tried to make diamonds by warming graphite, invented an easily broken glass razor, and pneumatic shoes, which contained semi-inflated balloons that burst frequently. Fragile health prevented him from joining the Army during World War I and made him suffer constantly with cold feet, which motivated him to invent a thermal stocking with an extra layer of cotton in the interior, which was reasonably successful.

In 1922, already living in Hastings, also in Scotland, Baird began experiments on the transmission of images, which led him two years later to become the first man to send static images through a mechanical analogue television system. In the first demonstration, Baird was able to transmit the outline of objects by a distance of about a step and, a year later, transmitted faces of people that could be recognized. In 1926, Baird gave a demonstration to a group of scientists at the Royal Institute of London, transmitting images from a prototype camera, located in his own laboratory, by a transmitter also invented by him.

Recognition finally came, and in 1927, the scientist founded the Baird Television Development Company, and made the first transatlantic transmission of images between London and New York. In 1928, he invented a type of video recorder device, which he called phonovision, and held the first demonstration of colour television. Two years later, he signed a contract with the BBC and made the first attempts at synchronization between sound and image. In 1931, there was the first live broadcast. In 1937, the mechanical scanning system used by the Baird apparatus was replaced by the electronic system.

Baird has also developed studies on fibre optics, broadcasting, infrared rays for night vision and radar. There is no official record regarding his contribution to radar development, but according to a statement by his son Malcolm, Baird would have asked the British government for a patent for a device that formed images reflected from radio waves, which was never officially recognized.

Tags: Scientist, Baird, Scotland, Television, 19th Century

Irmãos LumiereIrmãos Lumière

The Lumière brothers invented the film projector and became the fathers of cinema.

Birth October 19, 1862
Death: April 10, 1954

Birth: October 10, 1864
Death: June 06, 1948

Auguste and Louis Lumière were born in Besançon, France, children of the couple Antoine Lumière, painter of signs, and Jeanne-Joséphine, washerwoman. Some years after Louis’s birth, the family moved to Lyon, where Antoine decided to change profession and become a photographer. Five years later, Antoine Lumière helped his father, who presented his photos at the Paris Exposition in 1878, for which he commissioned electric lighting for his studio, a novelty that caused frenzy among the spectators.

The photographic technique of those times was complex. The wet collodion plates had to be emulsified one by one in a darkened room prior to exposure and developed briefly thereafter. Thus, the invention and improvement of the pre-sensitized, ready-to-use dry plates that could be preserved and developed much later were a major revolution for simplifying the process. The Lumières, enchanted by the novelty, decided to research the subject with dedication.

In 1881 Louis, who was only 17 years old, was able to manufacture his first dried plates, without the presence of his brother, who was in the Army. Encouraged by the possibility of becoming the only manufacturer of dry plates in the region, his father sought a shed that served as studio and started to produce 1,400 plates per day. Sometime later, the brothers decided to return to the laboratory, focused on inventing a faster plate that needed only a few seconds of exposure. The “blue label” plate, named after the packaging label, was sold for no less than sixty years, turning Auguste and Louis into respected businessmen – the family prospered and became the owner of a glass factory, part of a chemical industry, and a paper factory.

In 1891, when Thomas Edison introduced the kinetoscope to the public, a device in which a 15-meter film allowed a single viewer to see a scene the size of a business card, Auguste became interested and began to study means of capturing images , develop and project them in a movement similar to the one of the real life. To achieve their goal, the brothers invented the cinematograph, an ingenuity inspired by the sewing machine, incremented with a system of teeth that fit the film perforations. After filming a few experimental strips, Auguste and Louis organized an inaugural screening, exhibiting the film “Workers Leaving the Factory” to the public in March 1895. The eight hundred images, lasting a total of 50 seconds, left spectators stunned. Taking advantage of the success, the Lumières produced “The Sprinkler Sprinkled”, “Arrival of a train at La Ciotat” and several other scenes that were presented in the Indian Hall of the Boulevard des Capucines, that became famous.

The Lumière brothers bought rooms for projection and began to manufacture devices and films, in addition to producing and distributing their own films. Without realizing the importance of cinematography, Auguste and Louis sold the rooms to two powerful and visionary businessmen, the brothers Pathé and Léon Gaumont, and returned to the laboratories, emulsions and photographs. They also devoted themselves to studying electricity and acoustics. Auguste was still interested in medicine and although he had no degree, he learned to diagnose, studied and improved formulas for various medicines and became the head of the Hospices of the city of Paris. Louis Lumière died in 1948 at the age of 84. Auguste, six years later, at 92. “I came to the end of the film,” he said a few days before.

Tags: Scientist, Lumière, France, Cinema, 19th Century

Michael FaradayMichael Faraday

English physicist and chemist who made several important discoveries and demonstrated the electromagnetic induction.

Birth: September 22, 1791
Death: August 25, 1867

Michael Faraday was born in London, the son of a blacksmith who had health problems that prevented him from working on many occasions, and made his family very poor. Despite poverty, the family had a strong sense of community, believing that all the phenomena of the universe were intertwined, a belief that supported Faraday’s theories throughout his life.

From the age of 13 to 20, he contributed to the family income by working as a bookbinder, taking the opportunity to read everything that was given to him for binding, especially scientific texts and particularly those of chemistry. In 1810 he met and began to attend a group called the Philosophical Society, in which he received basic instruction in electricity, optics, geography, mechanics, chemistry, astronomy and meteorology. Two years later, an accident with the English scientist Humphry Davy changed Faraday’s life. When he was examining nitrogen chloride, a very unstable substance, Davy was temporarily blinded by an explosion. Faraday, who had carefully noted the scientist’s lectures at the Royal Institute, sent him his thoroughly bound notes and drew his attention. Shortly thereafter, Davy hired him as an assistant and proceeded to take him on his travels abroad.

Despite little theoretical knowledge, the spirit of experimentation led to important discoveries in chemistry and physics. He published his first successful work in 1816 on chemical analyses of certain limestones. In 1821, attracted by the experience of the Danish physicist Hans Christian Oersted, he developed a series of brilliant researches that culminated in the discovery of the electromagnetic rotation, that is, the first transformation of electrical energy into mechanical energy. The discovery came from the observation that one of the poles of a small magnetic needle rotated in circles around a wire where an electric current flowed.

In 1823, he discovered electrolysis, a process that separates the chemical elements of a compound through the use of electricity. In the same year, he managed to liquefy the chlorine gas by reducing its temperature and increasing pressure. From there, he was able to liquefy practically all known gases. The following year, thanks to the notoriety gained by his discoveries, he joined the Royal Society. In 1831, almost simultaneously with the English scientist Joseph Henry, Faraday demonstrated the electromagnetic induction, the inverse of the Oersted effect, that is, the direct transformation of mechanical energy into electric energy. That same year, through experiments with iron filings, he discovered and assigned the lines of force, and clarified the notion of electrostatic energy.

Faraday was responsible for introducing to the Whewell Council new terminology in chemistry, used until this date, such as electrolysis, ions, anion, anode, cation, cathode, etc. His last name was given to the electric charge, the amount of electricity required to release an equivalent gram of any substance.

Tags: Scientist, Faraday, United Kingdom, Electromagnetism, 19th Century

Nikola TeslaNikola Tesla

Electrical engineer famous for his discoveries in the field of electrotechnology and for the construction of the first AC motor.

Birth: July 10, 1856
Death: January 07, 1943

Nikola Tesla was born in 1856, in Smiljan, in present-day Croatia, one of the five children of the Serbian Orthodox priest Milutin Tesla and Duka Mandic, a woman who liked to invent tools. Endowed with photographic memory, Tesla was a brilliant student from an early age. He attended the polytechnic school in Graz, Austria, where he liked to study mainly physics and mathematics.

In 1880, Tesla graduated from the University of Prague and went to work as an electrical engineer in the telephone company in Budapest, Hungary, where he became interested in motors and electric currents. In 1884, after spending a period in Paris, working at the Continental Edison Company, he went to the United States, settling in New York, where he became assistant to Thomas Edison. The friction with Edison eventually made him lose his job two years later, but the following year, Tesla got sponsors to build his own lab, also in New York, where he started research in the field of power engineering and radioelectricity.

In 1889, Tesla got the patent for an alternating current motor, an electric current whose direction is variable, as opposed to a direct current. A year later, Tesla sold the patent to George Westinghouse, Edison’s rival in the electricity industry. Westinghouse then began campaigning with the US government for the adoption of the new form of electric current, which, in his opinion, was the most efficient way to distribute electricity. In 1891, Tesla began a series of trips across the United States and Europe, during which he presented detailed reports on the application of high-frequency alternating current and other discoveries.

From that time, Tesla developed numerous inventions of production or powered by electricity like a small electric motor that, in the following years, became an integral part of several household appliances, like blenders, mixers, etc. Tesla registered more than 100 patents, including the two-circuit coupling by mutual induction, which would be used in the first industrial radio wave generators; the principle and methodology of creating energy through rotating magnetic fields; the rotating field asynchronous motor; polyphaser; the electrical switches, as well as wireless communication and power transmission systems. The Tesla Museum in Belgrade, Serbia, was created and dedicated to the inventor, and Tesla, the unit of magnetic flux density of the MKS system, was named after him in 1956.

Tags: Scientist, Tesla, Croatia, Alternate current, 19th Century

Samuel Finley Breese MorseSamuel Finley Breese Morse

American inventor who gained worldwide notoriety after designing the system of communication through signals, known as Morse code.

Birth: April 27, 1791
Death: April 02, 1872

Painter and inventor, Samuel Finley Breese Morse was born in Charleston, Massachusetts (USA) in 1791, son of the Reverend Jedidiah Morse, compiler of the first American geography. A graduate from Yale in 1810, Morse became interested in electricity, a phenomenon that was little understood, but his taste for miniature portraits and romantic painting made him initially devoted to the fine arts. Thus, between 1810 and 1815, he studied painting and drawing in the United Kingdom.

During this period, in a trip through France, he met Louis-Jacques Daguerre, who was also a painter and had invented an image-fixing process, the forerunner of photography, which became known as the daguerreotype. Morse took the novelty to the US and developed it. The success of the new technique was the first step toward the founding, in 1826, of the National Academy of Design, of which he became president. In 1832, when he learned that a year earlier, in 1831, the English scientist Michael Faraday had proved that electrical impulses could be transmitted through wires and that the American physicist Joseph Henry had created the first electromagnet, Morse became interested in science again and decided to devote himself to the development of transmitters and receivers of electrical signals.

In 1838, Morse connected several magnetic devices and built his first telegraphic apparatus, introducing it to President Martin Van Buren in New York, at the same time he demonstrated the transmission system that, for the first time, could intelligibly send messages by means of wire, which was called Morse code. Four years later, the scientist began his experiments with submarine telegraph cables and, in the same year, obtained from the US Congress financial resources to install the country’s first commercial telegraph line connecting Baltimore and Washington. At the inauguration, in 1844, Morse transmitted his first message: What hath God wrought!

Morse faced a legal battle with his partners for patent rights, whose dispute ended in 1854 when the United States Supreme Court awarded him the case. So the telegraph only began to make him money in 1858, when he was able to sell his system to other countries like Austria, Belgium, France, Norway, Russia, Sweden and Turkey, making him famous all over the world.

Tags: Scientist, Morse, USA, Telegraph, 19th Century

Thomas Alva EdisonThomas Alva Edison

American inventor who registered 1,093 patents, the best known being the incandescent lamp.

Birth: February 11, 1847
Death: October 18, 1931

Thomas Alva Edison was born in Milan, Ohio (USA), the son of a junkyard worker and a housewife, who was responsible for his literacy. At age 12, Edison began working as a newspaper and book seller, and soon after, as a railroad telegrapher, which gave him the opportunity during the Civil War to install a printer in a train car and found his own weekly magazine, “The Weekly Herald,” of which he was a writer, printer, and salesman.

As a child, Edison showed curiosity and great observation skills. When the family moved in 1854 to a spacious home in Port Huron, Mich., Edison set up a chemistry lab in the attic, where for days he would experiment with science and make devices such as rudimentary telegraphs. At 21, he patented his first invention: an automatic votes counter. Two years later, he founded in Newark, New Jersey, a company specialized in manufacturing of a device that telegraphed the stock prices and provided him much profit.

In 1872, Edison moved to Menlo Park, near New York, where he began intensive research in different areas of technology, which gave him the nickname “the sorcerer.” From this laboratory, 1,093 patented inventions emerged as a device to streamline telegraphic transmissions; an electric pen that simplified duplication in a mimeograph; a sonic receiver that enabled the telephone to be invented by Graham Bell; a compressed air device known as an aerophone, which looked like a trumpet and increased the volume of the human voice making it audible at a distance; a current regulator for electric machines; a high vacuum apparatus; and an electric meter.

Among all his inventions, however, the most outstanding and reverberant were the phonograph, created in 1877, and the incandescent lamp, invented in 1879. It had a very fine filament of coal, kept inside a bulb of glass, subjected to vacuum. In 1880, after the resounding success of the incandescent lamp, Edison built the first industry-oriented light bulb and, between 1881 and 1882, designed and built the first thermoelectric power plant, which supplied energy to incandescent light bulbs in the New York financial district. In addition, in 1883, he patented the so-called Edison Valve, precursor of the radio valve, formed by an incandescent lamp with a metal plate inside, around the filament. During the construction of his valve, Edison discovered the thermionic effect, also known as Edison Effect – the formation of an electric current between the heated filament and the metal plate, in the partial vacuum. The thermionic effect became the basis for the construction of the first electronic valve many years later.

In 1887 Edison joined the Englishman Joseph Wilson Swan (1828-1914) to produce the Ediswan industrial light bulbs, and the following year he founded Edison General Electric, a company that became one of the largest multinational manufacturers of light bulbs and light and heavy electrical appliances. In 1894, Edison ventured into the world of moving images, inventing the perforated film and making a series of small samples in his studio, the Black Maria, first in the history of cinema. Edison’s films were not projected on screen, but inside the kinetoscope, equipment also invented by him, which allowed the images to be seen by one viewer at a time.

During World War I, Edison also worked for the US government, introducing various improvements in ships and small vessels, and perfecting methods for producing chemicals.

Tags: Scientist, Edison, USA, light bulb, 19th Century

Vladimir Kosma ZworykinVladimir Kosma Zworykin

Russian physicist and electronic engineer, naturalized American, fundamental for his researches in the development of the television.

Birth: July 30, 1889
Death: July 29, 1982

Vladmir Kosma Zworykin became interested in electronics by entering the Imperial Institute of Technology and befriending Professor Boris Lvovich Rosing, who, impressed by the intelligence and creativity of the young aspiring engineer, let him work on some of his projects.

In 1910, Rosing was trying to transmit images of paintings through wire, in his own laboratory. With the collaboration of his young assistant, he developed an experiment using a primitive cathode ray tube developed in Germany by Karl Ferdinand Braun (1850-1918). The experience took a year to work properly and they transmitted an image through wires. In 1912, after graduating with merits from the St. Petersburg Institute of Technology, Zworykin received a scholarship in electrical engineering at the Collège de France in Paris, and there he began a research, in partnership with the French physicist Paul Langevin, on the newly discovered X-rays.

During World War I, Zworykin joined the Russian army, and shortly thereafter, in 1919, he emigrated to the United States to work at the Westinghouse laboratory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A year later, he invented the iconoscope, the precursor to the imaging tube used in televisions and equipment essential for the development of cameras. In 1926, working at the University of Pittsburgh, Zworykin, who had naturalized five years earlier, completed his doctorate and invented the kinescope, a cathode-ray reverberant tube, and the receiver, a device that removed the last obstacles for transmitting moving images. However, as the kinescope only produced images in the sunlight, Zworykin improved it and, after several attempts, built the orthotic, which became the standard tube for the black-and-white image transmission system.

In 1929, he became director of the Electronic Research Laboratory of the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) in Camden, New Jersey, where he continued his research on electronics applied to the world of television imagery, working on improving his system and developing colour television. Zworykin also directed the team that produced, in 1939, a powerful electronic microscope, which reached a resolution far greater than that of the conventional microscope. Between 1954 and 1962, he worked as director of the Centre for Medical Electronics at the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, now Rockefeller University.

Tags: Scientist, Zworykin, Russia, Television, 19th Century

Wilhelm Conrad Roentgen 01Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen

German mechanical engineer and scientist discoverer of X-rays.

Birth: March 27, 1845
Death: February 10, 1923

Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen was the only child of a clothing manufacturer and merchant in the province of Reno, Germany. At the age of three, the family moved to Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, and Röntgen went to the boarding school Martinus Herman van Doorn, where he preferred outdoor activities and crafts to study.

At the age of 16, unable to attend the University of Utrecht after being expelled from secondary school, Röntgen decided to attend technical school and, after two and a half years, passed the exams for mechanical engineering at the Polytechnic University of Zurich, Switzerland. He graduated in 1868 and a year later received a doctorate in philosophy, becoming assistant to physics professor August Kundt, whose friendship and support boosted his career.

In 1871, Röntgen went with Kundt to the University of Würzburg and, three years later, to Strasbourg, where he became tutor at the local university. Four years later, he was hired as a professor at the Hohenheim Academy of Agriculture in Württemberg, where he wrote several scientific articles that earned him an invitation to take the physics chair at the University of Giessen. In 1888, he returned to Würzburg, where he was offered the positions of physics professor and director of the Institute of Physics of the Royal University. Six years later, Röntgen became dean of the University.

In 1895, he made his most important discovery – the X-rays -, earning, besides international fame, the title of honorary doctor in medicine and member of the academies of Berlin and Munich. The discovery of the rays occurred accidentally. Röntgen observed the already known cathode rays, using a vacuum tube invented by the Englishman William Crookes, who also made investigations on electricity. Röntgen realized then that a screen on a bench near the Crookes’ tube glowed brightly when struck by a light that was emitted from the part of the tube opposite the cathode. After a few weeks of observation, Röntgen discovered that such rays had a great power of penetration and were able to reveal and print the outline of bones in metal plates.

In 1896, the Royal Society of London awarded Röntgen the Rumford medal, and in 1901 he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. After his retirement in 1920, he retired to his country house in Weilheim, near Munich, where he had a large library. Röntgen performed studies on elasticity, capillarity, specific heats and calorimetric conduction in gases, crystals, etc. A few years after his death, his name went on to designate the unit of measure of a body exposure to an electromagnetic radiation.

Tags: Scientist, Röntgen, Germany, X-Ray, 19th Century