15 September 2017

Measuring Energy

One of the biggest honors a scientist can receive is to have his or her name attached to their invention or discovery. These new words are known as eponyms, and here are some eponyms we have for the measurement of energy.

James Prescott Joule (1818–1889) gave us the joule, a unit that measures work, or energy (a force acting over distance. He was a British physicist who established that all forms of energy are equivalent.

Joule also developed thermodynamics, along with Lord Kelvin who is better known because absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honor. While the existence of a lower limit to temperature (absolute zero) was known prior to his work, Lord Kelvin is widely known for determining its correct value as approximately −273.15 degree Celsius or −459.67 degree Fahrenheit.

Our common energy measurement of volts comes from Alessandro Volta (1745–1827). This unit measures differences in electrical potential. The Italian physicist Volta also discovered methane and  used his tongue to detect electricity and invented the first electric battery.

Another major electrical unit, the current-measuring ampere, takes its name from French physicist André-Marie Ampère (1775–1836) who was one of the main founders of the science of electromagnetism, which he called “electrodynamics.”

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