Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert

born March 12, 1824, Königsberg, Prussia
died Oct. 17, 1887, Berlin, Ger.

German physicist.

Kirchhoff's laws (1845) allow calculation of the currents, voltages, and resistances of electrical networks (he was the first to show that current flows through a conductor at the speed of light) and generalized the equations describing current flow to three dimensions. With Robert Bunsen, he demonstrated that every element emits coloured light when heated at wavelengths specific to it, a fact that is the basis of spectrum analysis. They used this new research tool to discover cesium (1860) and rubidium (1861), and began a new era in astronomy when they applied it to the spectrum of the sun.

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▪ German physicist

born March 12, 1824, Königsberg, Prussia [now Kaliningrad, Russia]
died Oct. 17, 1887, Berlin, Ger.
 German physicist who, with the chemist Robert Bunsen, firmly established the theory of spectrum analysis (a technique for chemical analysis by analyzing the light emitted by a heated material), which Kirchhoff applied to determine the composition of the Sun.

      In 1845 Kirchhoff first announced Kirchhoff's laws, which allow calculation of the currents, voltages, and resistances of electrical networks. Extending the theory of the German physicist Georg Simon Ohm, he generalized the equations describing current flow to the case of electrical conductors in three dimensions. In further studies he demonstrated that current flows through a conductor at the speed of light.

      In 1847 Kirchhoff became Privatdozent (unsalaried lecturer) at the University of Berlin and three years later accepted the post of extraordinary professor of physics at the University of Breslau. In 1854 he was appointed professor of physics at the University of Heidelberg, where he joined forces with Bunsen and founded spectrum analysis. They demonstrated that every element gives off a characteristic coloured light when heated to incandescence. This light, when separated by a prism, has a pattern of individual wavelengths specific for each element. Applying this new research tool, they discovered two new elements, cesium (1860) and rubidium (1861).

      Kirchhoff went further to apply spectrum analysis to study the composition of the Sun. He found that when light passes through a gas, the gas absorbs those wavelengths that it would emit if heated. He used this principle to explain the numerous dark lines (Fraunhofer lines) in the Sun's spectrum. That discovery marked the beginning of a new era in astronomy.

      In 1875 Kirchhoff was appointed to the chair of mathematical physics at the University of Berlin. Most notable of his published works are Vorlesungen über mathematische Physik (4 vol., 1876–94; “Lectures on Mathematical Physics”) and Gesammelte Abhandlungen (1882; supplement, 1891; “Collected Essays”).

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Universalium. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Kirchhoff,Gustav Robert — Kirch·hoff (kîrʹkôf , kîrKHʹhôf), Gustav Robert. 1824 1887. German physicist noted for his research in spectrum analysis, optics, and electricity. * * * …   Universalium

  • Kirchhoff , Gustav Robert — (1824–1887) German physicist Kirchhoff studied in his native city of Königsberg (now Kaliningrad in Russia), graduating in 1847. Three years later he was appointed a professor at Breslau. He moved to Heidelberg, where Robert Bunsen was professor… …   Scientists

  • Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert — ► (1824 87) Físico alemán. Junto con Fraunhofer y Bunsen, desarrolló las bases teóricas y experimentales de la espectroscopia. * * * (12 mar. 1824, Königsberg, Prusia–17 oct. 1887, Berlín, Alemania). Físico alemán. Las leyes de Kirchhoff (1845)… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Gustav Robert Kirchhoff — Gustav Kirchhoff Kirchhoff (links), zusammen mit …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Gustav Robert Kirchhoff — Gustav Kirchhoff Pour les articles homonymes, voir Kirchhoff. Portrait de Gustav Robert Kirchhoff Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (1824 1887) était un …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Gustav Robert Kirchhoff — noun German physicist who with Bunsen pioneered spectrum analysis and formulated two laws governing electric networks (1824 1887) • Syn: ↑Kirchhoff, ↑G. R. Kirchhoff • Instance Hypernyms: ↑physicist …   Useful english dictionary

  • Kirchhoff — Gustav Robert …   Scientists

  • Gustav Kirchhoff — Gustav Robert Kirchhoff Nacimiento 12 de marzo de 1824 Königsberg, Prusia (actualmente Kaliningrado, Rusia) …   Wikipedia Español

  • Gustav Kirchhoff — Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (* 12. März 1824 in Königsberg (Preußen); † 17. Oktober 1887 in Berlin) war ein deutscher Physiker, der sich insbesondere um die Erforschung der Elektrizität verdient gemacht hat. Er studierte von 1842 bis 1847 Mathematik… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Robert Bunsen — Robert Wilhelm Bunsen Statue Robert Bunsens in Heidelberg …   Deutsch Wikipedia

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