Person: Weber, Wilhelm Eduard
Wilhelm Weber was a German physicist who did important work on electricity. He collaborated with Gauss.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- They moved to Halle where Michael Weber became professor of theology.
- In 1821 Wilhelm Weber was seventeen years old and studying at the Francke Institute preparing to enter the University of Halle.
- Wilhelm Weber entered the University of Halle in 1822 where he was taught and strongly influenced by the physicist Johann S C Schweigger and the mathematician Johann Friedrich Pfaff.
- The meeting was organised by Alexander von Humboldt who was very impressed with the talk Weber gave on organ pipes.
- Equally important was the fact that Carl Friedrich Gauss also attended Weber's lecture and immediately saw the tremendous potential displayed by the young physicist.
- At this time Gauss was interested in geomagnetism and he realised that Weber would make an outstanding co-worker.
- He spoke to Weber and asked if he would be interested in taking a position in Göttingen if one were to become available.
- Indeed after the death of Tobias Mayer Jr, Weber was offered a professorship in physics at Göttingen in April 1831 which he immediately accepted.
- There followed six years of close friendship and collaboration between Weber and Gauss.
- In 1832 Weber and Gauss published a joint paper which introduced absolute units of measurement of magnetism for the first time.
- Weber made major contributions to this work, particularly by developing sensitive magnetometers and other magnetic instruments.
- Equally important was Weber's later work extending these ideas on magnetic measurements to electrical measurements which we mention again below.
- Another joint venture by Weber and Gauss of fundamental importance was their founding of the Göttingen Magnetische Verein in 1833.
- Gauss and Weber jointly published Atlas Des Erdmagnetismus: Nach Den Elementen Der Theorie Entworfen Ⓣ(Atlas of geomagnetism: From the observatioins) in 1840 which contains magnetic maps constructed using a network of magnetic observatories which they had organized from 1836 onwards to correlate measurements of terrestrial magnetism around the world.
- Weber also published several important papers on acoustics during these years.
- An uprising in 1830, shortly before Weber moved to Göttingen, led to William IV introducing a much more liberal and acceptable constitution in 1833.
- Weber, although dismissed, was not forced to leave Göttingen and he continued to work at the Göttingen Magnetische Verein without holdig any university position.
- Gauss and von Humboldt appealed to the King to reinstate Weber and the King agreed to do so provided Weber make a public retraction of the views expressed in the letter of protest.
- Weber, however, was a man of strong principles and he was certainly not prepared to make a public statement which went totally against his views so he refused to make the required public retraction.
- At Leipzig, Weber continued the work on Ampère's law of electrical force which he had been undertaking in Göttingen from 1832 onwards.
- In the first of these, Weber introduced his dynamometer to test Ampère's law of force between electric current elements, to a degree of precision exceeding Ampère's, and also investigated electromagnetic induction.
- Weber showed how an electrical quantity could be stated in terms of the unit of time, length, and mass, without any reference to other electrical phenomena, and this was a new and great achievement.
- The British Association Committee on Electrical Standards adopted Weber's work as a basis for their standards of units.
- What Weber achieved was a bringing together of three laws, namely that describing the interactions of two electric charges at rest, Ampère's law for moving electric currents, and the law describing electrical induction.
- The door was thus opened for Weber to return to Göttingen but his position had already been filled by Johann Benedict Listing in 1839 despite the fact that he had never published a paper.
- Weber insisted that Listing should keep the chair so he returned to Göttingen in 1849 as the Director of the Astronomical Observatory.
- Gauss died in 1855, and shortly before this Weber began a collaboration with Rudolph Hermann Arndt Kohlrausch who was then at Marburg.
- Bernhard Riemann, who spent eighteen months as Weber's assistant, was present when the experiments were carried out and he did make the connection between light and both electrodynamic and electromagnetic phenomena.
- Weber's later years at Göttingen were devoted to work in electrodynamics and the electrical structure of matter.
- For his outstanding achievements Weber received many honours.
- In 1935 the unit of magnetic flux was named the weber in his honour.
- Around that time the term weber was quite widely used for the unit of electric current but Helmholtz had been in a number of disputes with Weber so he was keen to not have such an important unit named after someone with whom he frequently disagreed.
- Weber left his more lasting impression on physical theory with his atomistic conception of electrical charge and his vision of the role of such charges in determining the electrical, magnetic and thermal properties of matter.
Born 4 October 1804, Wittenberg, Saxony (now Germany). Died 23 June 1891, Göttingen, Germany.
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Tags relevant for this person:
Algebra, Origin Germany
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive