Birthday: August 14, 1777
Died At Age: 73
Sun Sign: Leo
Also Known As: Hans Christian Oersted
Born in: Rudkøbing
Famous as: Physicist
Spouse/Ex-: Birgitte Ballum
father: Søren Christian Ørsted
mother: Karen Hermandsen
siblings: Anders Sandøe Ørsted
children: Albert Nicolai Ørsted, Karen Ørsted, Mathilde Elisabeth Ørsted, Sophie Vilhelmine Bertha Ørsted
Died on: March 9, 1851
place of death: Copenhagen
Founder/Co-Founder: Selskabet for Naturlærens Udbredelse, Technical University of Denmark
education: University of Copenhagen
awards: Copley Medal
Hans Christian Oersted, a Danish chemist and physicist revolutionized the concept of electromagnetism by figuring that electric currents are capable of creating magnetic fields. Born to a chemist father, Hans was surrounded by scientific apparatus which triggered his interest in science. He studied several languages as a young boy and went to University of Copenhagen and majored in science and philosophy. He had an undergraduate degree in pharmacy, and later he was awarded the Doctor of Philosophy. Hans travelled the world meeting several renowned scientists and took up a job in the University. He gave several lectures, and during the course of one of his lectures was amazed to find that a magnetic needle aligns in a perpendicular position with a current carrying wire. This revelation became his premise of the relationship between magnetism and electricity. Although Hans never attempted to explain electromagnetism through mathematical equations; it was definitely a historic breakthrough which led to several studies and researches related to electromagnetism. He made another discovery in the field of chemistry, when he discovered aluminium, distinguished it from other chemical compounds and extracted it as a unique element. His lifelong venture was to make science popular among people in general, rather enclosing it within academic and scientific communities.
Childhood & Early Life
Hans was born on August 14th, 1777 in Rudkobing in Denmark. His father Soren Christian Oersted was a practising pharmacist, and young Hans helped his father in the family business and got introduced to chemistry and science.
Because of his father’s preoccupation with business and his mother’s engagement with a large family, Hans and his young brother Anders were sent to live with a German wigmaker and his wife. It was during this time, that the two brothers became acquainted with German and even learnt rudimentary Latin, French and mathematics.
At the age of 17, the family moved to Copenhagen and both the brothers were able to clear the entrance examination of the University with honours.
At the University, Hans studied physics, astronomy, chemistry and mathematics. Hans was quite influenced by Kantian philosophy and defended all his theories fiercely. In 1797, he received the pharmaceutical degree with honours.
The next year, he became one of the members of the editorial board of ‘Philosophisk repertorium for faedrelandets nyeste litteratur’, but the stint was short-lived. His interest in this magazine resulted from the fact that this magazine was known to defend Kantian philosophy.
In 1799, he received his Doctoral degree, and in his thesis he elaborated the importance and application of Kantian philosophy in natural philosophy.
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Hans was appointed as a pharmacy manager for a few days, and in 1801, he left his job to travel and complete his scientific knowledge.
At Gottingen, he was introduced to Johann Ritter who was working on the chemical effects of current electricity. Ritter’s ideas were unorthodox and stimulated Hans to develop his own ideas.
At Berlin, he met Henrik Steffens and Franz Baader, and he read Schelling. During his journey he collaborated with great minds, who influenced his philosophical thoughts.
In Paris, the first spark of scientific endeavour was noticed in the scholar when he defended Ritter’s work.
Although he faced his share of criticism, he learnt one important lesson. He discovered that many of the concepts which he previously believed to be scientifically proven were basically figments of imagination.
In 1804, he returned to Copenhagen but was disappointed as he was not offered a position of professorship.
He started giving public lectures which soon became extremely popular and he was offered professorship in 1806 in the ‘University of Copenhagen’. The next few years saw his emergence as a scientist who published several papers.
In 1812, while doing his research in Berlin, he wrote a paper demonstrating the relationship between electrical and chemical forces.
In 1820, while experimenting, he found out that a magnetic needle aligns in a perpendicular position with a current carrying wire. Subsequent investigation led to the discovery of the force of electromagnetism.
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In the year 1824, Hans founded a society for raising consciousness of scientific knowledge among people in general.
He became the first person to reduce aluminium chloride to obtain aluminium in its elemental form, in the year 1825.
In the year 1829, Oersted established ‘Den Polytekniske Læreanstal’, which is now known as the ‘Technical University of Denmark’.
His major discovery was definitely the relationship between magnetism and electricity. Hans was also responsible for the discovery of piperine, the pungent element of pepper. His discovery of aluminium in the field of chemistry is considered as a matter of monumental importance.
Awards & Achievements
Hans was the ‘Secretary of Royal Society of Sciences in Copenhagen’ and he was also named a ‘Knight of the Prussian Order of Merit’.
The eminent scientist was also a member of the ‘French Legion of Honour’.
In the year 1820, the erudite scientist was awarded the ‘Copley Medal’ by the ‘Royal Society of London’, for his contribution to the scientific world.
In 1822, Hans became the foreign member of the ‘Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’.
Personal Life & Legacy
In November 1850, a national holiday was declared by the Government of Denmark, honouring this accomplished scientist and his work at the ‘University of Copenhagen’.
On March 9th, 1851, Oersted died in Copenhagen at the age of 73, and his funeral was attended by all distinguished people of Denmark.
As a scientist, Oersted was more enthusiastic about spreading scientific knowledge among people in general, rather than confining it within academic buildings and science laboratories.
From the year 1908, ‘Selskabet for Naturlærens Udbredelse’, the society founded by this eminent scientist has started awarding ‘Oersted Medals’ to Danish physical scientists who had made outstanding contribution in the field.
In 1930s the term ‘Oersted’ was named after him and is used for defining a unit of magnetic field strength.