Famous Physicists 1500-1800

William Gilbert 1544-1603
English
hypothesized that the Earth is a giant magnet
Galileo Galilei 1564-1642
Italian
performed fundamental observations, experiments, and mathematical analyses in astronomy and physics; discovered mountains and craters on the moon, the phases of Venus, and the four largest satellites of Jupiter: Io, Europa, Callisto, and Ganymede
Willebrod Snell 1580-1626
Dutch
discovered law of refraction (Snell’s law)
Blaise Pascal 1623-1662
French
discovered that pressure applied to an enclosed fluid is transmitted undiminished to every part of the fluid and to the walls of its container (Pascal’s principle)
Christiaan Huygens 1629-1695
Dutch
proposed a simple geometrical wave theory of light, now known as “Huygen’s principle”; pioneered use of the pendulum in clocks
Robert Hooke 1635-1703
English
discovered Hooke’s law of elasticity
Sir Isaac Newton 1643-1727
English
developed theories of gravitation and mechanics, and invented differential calculus
Daniel Bernoulli 1700-1782
Swiss
developed the fundamental relationship of fluid flow now known as Bernoulli’s principle
Benjamin Franklin 1706-1790
American
the first American physicist; characterized two kinds of electric charge, which he named “positive” and “negative”
Leonard Euler 1707-1783
Swiss
made fundamental contributions to fluid dynamics, lunar orbit theory (tides), and mechanics; also contributed prolifically to all areas of classical mathematics
Henry Cavendish 1731-1810
British
discovered and studied hydrogen; first to measure Newton’s gravitational constant; calculated mass and mean density of Earth
Charles Augustin de Coulomb 1736-1806
French
experiments on elasticity, electricity, and magnetism; established experimentally nature of the force between two charges
Joseph-Louis Lagrange 1736-1813
French
developed new methods of analytical mechanics
James Watt 1736-1819
Scottish
invented the modern condensing steam engine and a centrifugal governor
Count Alessandro Volta 1745-1827
Italian
pioneer in study of electricity; invented the first electric battery
Joseph Fourier 1768-1830
French
established the differential equation governing heat diffusion and solved it by devising an infinite series of sines and cosines capable of approximating a wide variety of functions
Thomas Young 1773-1829
British
studied light and color; known for his double-slit experiment that demonstrated the wave nature of light
Jean-Babtiste Biot 1774-1862
French
studied polarization of light; co-discovered that intensity of magnetic field set up by a current flowing through a wire varies inversely with the distance from the wire
André Marie Ampère 1775-1836
French
father of electrodynamics
Amadeo Avogadro 1776-1856
Italian
developed hypothesis that all gases at same volume, pressure, and temperature contain same number of atoms
Johann Carl Friedrich Gauss 1777-1855
German
formulated separate electrostatic and electrodynamical laws, including “Gauss’ law”; contributed to development of number theory, differential geometry, potential theory, theory of terrestrial magnetism, and methods of calculating planetary orbits
Hans Christian Oersted 1777-1851
Danish
discovered that a current in a wire can produce magnetic effects
Sir David Brewster 1781-1868
English
deduced “Brewster’s law” giving the angle of incidence that produces reflected light which is completely polarized; invented the kaleidoscope and the stereoscope, and improved the spectroscope
Augustin-Jean Fresnel 1788-1827
French
studied transverse nature of light waves
Georg Ohm 1789-1854
German
discovered that current flow is proportional to potential difference and inversely proportional to resistance (Ohm’s law)
Michael Faraday 1791-1867
English
discovered electromagnetic induction and devised first electrical transformer
Felix Savart 1791-1841
French
co-discovered that intensity of magnetic field set up by a current flowing through a wire varies inversely with the distance from the wire
Sadi Carnot 1796-1832
French
founded the science of thermodynamics
Joseph Henry 1797-1878
American
performed extensive fundamental studies of electromagnetic phenomena; devised first practical electric motor