Birthday: February 22, 1857
Died At Age: 36
Sun Sign: Pisces
Born in: Hamburg
Famous as: Physicist
children: Carl Hellmuth Hertz
Died on: January 1, 1894
place of death: Bonn
City: Hamburg, Germany
discoveries/inventions: Dipole Antenna, Wireless Telegraphy, Radar
education: Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Humboldt University of Berlin, Technische Universität München
awards: Rumford Medal - 1890
Who was Heinrich Hertz?
Heinrich Hertz was a German scientist and physicist who became the first scientist to prove that electromagnetic waves did indeed have an existence and in so doing he proved what had only been a theory first put forwards by the Scottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell. His theories went on to be developed into what later came to be known as radio waves, however, it is also important to point out that another huge conclusion from his research on electromagnetic waves was that he was also able to prove that both light and heat are different forms of electromagnetic radiations. Other than being a gifted exponent of the sciences from an early age, Hertz was also a linguist who excelled in learning new languages and it is not a surprise that he was trained in languages like Sanskrit and Arabic which were rarely learnt by students at the time. Last but not the least, Hertz might have had a relatively short career compared to other scientists of the era but there is absolutely no denying the fact that he achieved a lot in his short career that many others would have been proud of and needless to say he has left behind a rich body of work that would be studied in universities for years.
Childhood & Early Life
Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was born on 22 February 1857 to Gustav Ferdinand Hertz and Anna Elisabeth Pfefferkom, in Hamburg, Germany. His father worked as a barrister and went on to become a member of the senate.
Heinrich Hertz started attending the school Gelertenschule des Johanneums located in Hamburg and during his time at the school he showed genuine liking for the sciences and at the same time he also learnt languages like Sanskrit as well as Arabic.
After graduating from school and displaying a natural gifts for the sciences; Hertz had the option of either studying the sciences or go for engineering. However, engineering was not something he liked and after he secured support from his father; Hertz enrolled at the University of Munich in 1877.
In 1880, Heinrich Hertz submitted his doctoral thesis that dealt with the subject of electromagnetic induction and the same year the University of Berlin awarded him with his doctorate. In the following years, Hertz served as an assistant to Hermann von Helmholtz as part of his post-doctoral study at the University of Berlin.
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Following his post-doctoral research at the University of Berlin under Hermann von Helmholtz, Heinrich Hertz was appointed as lecturer of theoretical physics in the University of Kiel in 1883 and two years later the University of Karlsruhe appointed him as a professor. It was in the same year that he was appointed at the University of Kiel that Hertz started his research on Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory.
Following his appointment at the University of Karlsruhe in 1885, Heinrich Hertz’s research on electromagnetic waves went up to a new level and during the next four years he managed to generate electromagnetic waves in the laboratory. Consequently, he successfully proved that both light as well as heat were nothing but electromagnetic radiations. The waves came to be called Hertzian in his honour.
In 1886, Heinrich Hertz started working on contact mechanics. His work on contact mechanics went on to inspire future research in the field many years later. He propounded his ideas in two separate papers.
The University of Bonn appointed Heinrich Hertz as the professor in physics in the year 1889 and that was where he was employed till the end of his career. It was during his tenure at the University of Bonn that Hertz found that thin metals could be penetrated by cathode rays. It was later developed into the ‘ray effect’. He also wrote the manuscript of the book ‘The Principles of Mechanics Presented in a New Form’ while he was employed at the University.
During his relatively short career as a scientist and theoretical physicist Heinrich Hertz accomplished a lot but it was his research on electromagnetic waves that stands out as the greatest achievement in his career. Prior to Hertz’s research electromagnetic waves had only been a theory propounded by James Clerk Maxell. Those waves were what came to be later known as radio waves.
Awards & Achievements
The Italian Society of Sciences awarded Heinrich Hertz with the Matteucci Medal, in 1888.
In 1890 the Royal Society awarded Hertz with the Rumford Medal.
Personal Life & Legacy
Heinrich Hertz got married to Elisabeth Doll who was a lecturer of geometry at the University of Karlsruhe. They couple had two daughters, named Johanna and Mathilde. Mathilde followed in the footsteps of his parents and excelled in academia as a biologist.
Heinrich Hertz died on 1 January 1894 in Bonn due to granulomatosis with polyangiitis also known as GPA. Two years prior to his death he had an operation to cure migraine but that had led to complications that culminated in his death, at the age of 36.
Hertz, the unit used to denote frequency, has been named in his honour.