1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Wiedemann, Gustav Heinrich

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WIEDEMANN, GUSTAV HEINRICH (1826-1899), German physicist, was born at Berlin on the 2nd of October 1826. After attending the Cologne gymnasium, he entered the university of Berlin in 1844, and took his doctor's degree there three years later. His thesis on that occasion was devoted to a question in organic chemistry, for he held the opinion that the study of chemistry is an indispensable preliminary to the pursuit of physics, which was his ultimate aim. In Berlin he made the acquaintance of H. von Helmholtz at the house of H. G. Magnus, and was one of the founders of the Berlin Physical Society. In 1854 he left Berlin to become professor of physics in Basel University, removing nine years afterwards to Brunswick Polytechnic, and in 1866 to Karlsruhe Polytechnic. In 1871 he accepted the chair of physical chemistry at Leipzig. The attention he had paid to chemistry in the earlier part of his career enabled him to hold his own in this position, but he found his work more congenial when in 1887 he was transferred to the professorship of physics. He died at Leipzig on the 24th of March 1899. His name is probably most widely known for his literary work. In 1877 he undertook the editorship of the Annalen der Physik und Chemie in succession to J. C. Poggendorff, thus starting the series of that scientific periodical which is familiarly cited as Wied. Ann. Another monumental work for which he was responsible was Die Lehre von der Elektricität, or, as it was called in the first instance, Lehre von Galvanismus und Elektromagnetismus, a book that is unsurpassed for accuracy and comprehensiveness. He produced the first edition in 1861, and a fourth, revised and enlarged, was only completed a short time before his death. But his original work was also important. His data for the thermal conductivity of various metals were for long the most trustworthy at the disposal of physicists, and his determination of the ohm in terms of the specific resistance of mercury showed remarkable skill in quantitative research. He carried out a number of magnetic investigations which resulted in the discovery of many interesting phenomena, some of which have been rediscovered by others; they related among other things to the effect of mechanical strain on the magnetic properties of the magnetic metals, to the relation between the chemical composition of compound bodies and their magnetic properties, and to a curious parallelism between the laws of torsion and of magnetism. He also investigated electrical endosmosis and the electrical resistance of electrolytes. His eldest son, Eilhard Ernst Gustav, born at Berlin on the 1st of August 1852, became professor of physics at Erlangen in 1886, and his younger son, Alfred, born at Berlin on the 18th of July 1856, was appointed to the extraordinary professorship of Egyptology at Bonn in 1892.