1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Angström, Anders Jonas

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

ANGSTRÖM, ANDERS JONAS (1814–1874), Swedish physicist, was born on the 13th of August 1814 at Lögdö, Medelpad, Sweden. He was educated at Upsala University, where in 1839 he became privat docent in physics. In 1842 he went to Stockholm Observatory in order to gain experience in practical astronomical work, and in the following year he became observer at Upsala Observatory. Becoming interested in terrestrial magnetism he made many observations of magnetic intensity and declination in various parts of Sweden, and was charged by the Stockholm Academy of Sciences with the task, not completed till shortly before his death, of working out the magnetic data obtained by the Swedish frigate “Eugénie” on her voyage round the world in 1851–1853. In 1858 he succeeded Adolph Ferdinand Svanberg (1806–1857) in the chair of physics at Upsala, and there he died on the 21st of June 1874. His most important work was concerned with the conduction of heat and with spectroscopy. In his optical researches, Optiska Undersökningar, presented to the Stockholm Academy in 1853, he not only pointed out that the electric spark yields two superposed spectra, one from the metal of the electrode and the other from the gas in which it passes, but deduced from Euler’s theory of resonance that an incandescent gas emits luminous rays of the same refrangibility as those which it can absorb. This statement, as Sir E. Sabine remarked when awarding him the Rumford medal of the Royal Society in 1872, contains a fundamental principle of spectrum analysis, and though for a number of years it was overlooked it entitles him to rank as one of the founders of spectroscopy. From 1861 onwards he paid special attention to the solar spectrum. He announced the existence of hydrogen, among other elements, in the sun’s atmosphere in 1862, and in 1868 published his great map of the normal solar spectrum which long remained authoritative in questions of wave-length, although his measurements were inexact to the extent of one part in 7000 or 8000 owing to the metre which he used as his standard having been slightly too short. He was the first, in 1867, to examine the spectrum of the aurora borealis, and detected and measured the characteristic bright line in its yellow green region; but he was mistaken in supposing that this same line, which is often called by his name, is also to be seen in the zodiacal light.

His son, Knut Johan Ångström, was born at Upsala on the 12th of January 1857, and studied at the university of that town from 1877 to 1884. After spending a short time in Strassburg he was appointed lecturer in physics at Stockholm University in 1885, but in 1891 returned to Upsala, where in 1896 he became professor of physics. He especially devoted himself to investigations of the radiation of heat from the sun and its absorption by the earth’s atmosphere, and to that end devised various delicate methods and instruments, including his electric compensation pyrheliometer, invented in 1893, and apparatus for obtaining a photographic representation of the infra-red spectrum (1895).