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Hans Christian Oersted

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Hans Christian Oersted

Hans Christian Oersted was born in Rudkobing on August 14, 1777 to Soren Christian Oersted and Karen Hermansen. His father was an apothecary and did not have the time to properly raise Oersted or his brother so they were raised by a German wigmaker. When he turned eleven, he went to work for his father at his pharmacy, where his first interest in science began. Without any prior schooling, except what he learned informally through others, he passed the entrance exam to University of Copenhagen, where he graduated with honors. In 1806, he later became a professor of physics at the same university. Although he was both a Danish philosopher and physicist who made contributions to the scientific community including the isolation of aluminum, he is best known for his discovery that linked electricity and magnetism.

While lecturing his class at the University of Copenhagen in 1819, he accidentally came upon this connection. Some people say that this discovery was more of an accident, than one based upon research and knowledge, which may have some truth. In the 1780's Colomb hypothesized that electricity and magnetism were two very different laws, he felt this was impossible. Oersted also studied Naturphilosophie under Schelling, which stemmed his belief in the view that nature is systematic and unified. Because he looked at the study and practice of science as religion, he was motivated to find a connection that would link different scientific fields. Although the actual discovery was an accident, Oersted was on the right track. He had all the right materials and the right general idea.

One afternoon Hans Christian Oersted was attempting to demonstrate to his students that moving charges did not make a magnetic field. Oersted had planned to demonstrate this by showing the heating of a wire by an electric current. He also wanted to demonstrate magnetism. In order to do this, he provided a compass needle mounted on a wooden stand. Oersted noticed that every time the electric current was switched on the compass needle moved. This is a new discovery because previously no one had known that when electric current passed through a wire, it produced a magnetic field. Before this, it was generally accepted that wire carried an electric current. The compass needle's movement proved the magnetic field. This can be demonstrated with a compass and a magnet. The wire carrying the electric current acts like

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