It Hertz to imagine a world without you

May 31, 2017



Cell phones, radio, television, satellite communication, WLAN - it is hard for us today to imagine a world without the technology of electromagnetic waves. And yet, the man who first created, detected and studied them was born just 160 year ago on February 22, 1857.


Heinrich Hertz grew up in Hamburg, Germany, where his father was a lawyer and senator of the city of Hamburg. After school, he prepared to be a civil engineer, but he was fascinated by mathematics and physics, and after his first year at university, he changed from engineering to physics. He studied in Munich and Berlin, got his PhD at the age of 22 with Kirchhoff and Helmholtz - very young even at that time - became a postdoc at Berlin and Kiel and professor in Karlsruhe and, finally, Bonn - quite a typical meandering path for a German scientist in the 19th century.


In a series of experiments in 1887, building on work with resonant circuits fed by spark discharges, Heinrich Hertz managed to create electromagnetic waves. After these experiments, it was clear that Maxwell had formulated not only a beautiful, but also a true theory, and that light is indeed an electromagnetic wave, as are the "Hertzian" waves we know today as radio waves.


If we listen to the radio today, or talk to someone via cellphone, or watch TV, it is a good idea to toast to Heinrich Hertz



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