Gustav Kirchhoff

Gustav Kirchhoff

name = Gustav Robert Kirchhoff

image_width = 200px
caption = Gustav Kirchhoff
birth_date = birth date|1824|3|12|df=y
birth_place = Königsberg, East Prussia
death_date = death date and age|1887|10|17|1824|3|12|df=y
death_place = Berlin, Germany
residence = Germany
nationality = German
field = Physicist
work_institutions = University of Berlin
University of Breslau
University of Heidelberg
alma_mater = University of Königsberg
doctoral_advisor = Franz Ernst Neumann
doctoral_students = Max Noether
Ernst Schröder
known_for = Kirchhoff's circuit laws
Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation
prizes = Rumford medal
religion =
footnotes =

Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (March 12, 1824 – October 17, 1887) was a German physicist who contributed to the fundamental understanding of electrical circuits, spectroscopy, and the emission of black-body radiation by heated objects. He coined the term "black body" radiation in 1862, and two sets of independent concepts in both circuit theory and thermal emission are named "Kirchhoff's laws" after him. The Bunsen-Kirchhoff Award for spectroscopy is named after him and his colleague, Robert Bunsen.

Life and work

Gustav Kirchhoff was born in Königsberg, East Prussia, the son of Friedrich Kirchhoff, a lawyer, and Johanna Henriette Wittke. He graduated from the Albertus University of Königsberg in 1847 where he attended the mathematico-physical seminar directed by Franz Ernst Neumann and Friedrich Julius Richelot. He married Clara Richelot, the daughter of his mathematics professor Richelot. In the same year, they moved to Berlin, where he stayed until he received a professorship at Breslau.

Kirchhoff formulated his circuit laws, which are now ubiquitous in electrical engineering, in 1845, while still a student. He completed this study as a seminar exercise; it later became his doctoral dissertation. He proposed his law of thermal radiation in 1859, and gave a proof in 1861. He was called to the University of Heidelberg in 1854, where he collaborated in spectroscopic work with Robert Bunsen. Together Kirchhoff and Bunsen discovered caesium and rubidium in 1861. At Heidelberg he ran a mathematico-physical seminar, modelled on Neumann's, with the mathematician Leo Koenigsberger. Among those who attended this seminar were Arthur Schuster and Sofia Kovalevskaya. In 1875 Kirchhoff accepted the first chair specifically dedicated to theoretical physics at Berlin.

In 1862 he was awarded the Rumford Medal for his researches on the fixed lines of the solar spectrum, and on the inversion of the bright lines in the spectra of artificial light.

He contributed greatly to the field of spectroscopy by formalizing three laws that describe the spectral composition of light emitted by incandescent objects, building substantially on the discoveries of David Alter and Anders Jonas Angstrom (see also: spectrum analysis)

Kirchhoff died in 1887, and was buried in the St Matthäus Kirchhof Cemetery in Schöneberg, Berlin, only a few meters from the graves of the Brothers Grimm.

Kirchhoff's three laws of spectroscopy:

#A hot solid object produces light with a continuous spectrum.
#A hot tenuous gas produces light with spectral lines at discrete wavelengths (i.e. specific colors) which depend on the energy levels of the atoms in the gas. ("See also:" emission spectrum)
#A hot solid object surrounded by a cool tenuous gas (i.e. cooler than the hot object) produces light with an almost continuous spectrum which has gaps at discrete wavelengths depending on the energy levels of the atoms in the gas. ("See also:" absorption spectrum)

Kirchhoff did not know about the existence of energy levels in atoms. The existence of discrete spectral lines was later explained by the Bohr model of the atom, which helped lead to quantum mechanics.

ee also

* Kirchhoff's circuit laws
* Kirchhoff equations
* Piola-Kirchhoff stress tensor
* Kirchhoff's law of thermal radiation
* Kirchhoff Institute of Physics
* Spectroscope
* Kirchhoff's theorem



NAME= Kirchhof, Gustav Robert
DATE OF BIRTH= birth date|1824|3|12|df=y
PLACE OF BIRTH= Königsberg, East Prussia
DATE OF DEATH= death date|1887|10|17|df=y
PLACE OF DEATH= Berlin, Germany

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