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Home > Dictionary of Science Quotations > Scientist Names Index O > Hans Christian Oersted Quotes

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Hans Christian Oersted
(14 Aug 1777 - 9 Mar 1851)

Danish physicist and chemist.


Science Quotes by Hans Christian Oersted (2 quotes)

It appears, according to the reported facts, that the electric conflict is not restricted to the conducting wire, but that it has a rather extended sphere of activity around it … the nature of the circular action is such that movements that it produces take place in directions precisely contrary to the two extremities of a given diameter. Furthermore, it seems that the circular movement, combined with the progressive movement in the direction of the length of the conjunctive wire, should form a mode of action which is exerted as a helix around this wire as an axis.
— Hans Christian Oersted
Recherches sur l’identité des forces chimiques et électriques (1813), 248. In James R. Hofmann, André-Marie Ampère (1996), 231.
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The agreement of this law with nature will be better seen by the repetition of experiments than by a long explanation.
— Hans Christian Oersted
Referring to the magnetic effect of an electric current. Original communication written in Latin, as a pamphlet (21 Jul 1820) distributed privately to scientists and scientific societies, 'Experimenta Circa Effectum Conflictus Electrici in Acum Magneticam'. Published in Annals of Philosophy (Oct 1820), 16, No. 4, 277. Both original text in Latin and English translation by J.E. Kempe, in 'Experiments on the Effect of a Current of Electricity on the Magnetic Needle', Proceedings of the Institution of Electrical Engineers (1877), 5, 459-464. Translation also reprinted in The Science News-Letter (1932), 21, No. 567, 120.
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Quotes by others about Hans Christian Oersted (3)

In that memorable year, 1822: Oersted, a Danish physicist, held in his hands a piece of copper wire, joined by its extremities to the two poles of a Volta pile. On his table was a magnetized needle on its pivot, and he suddenly saw (by chance you will say, but chance only favours the mind which is prepared) the needle move and take up a position quite different from the one assigned to it by terrestrial magnetism. A wire carrying an electric current deviates a magnetized needle from its position. That, gentlemen, was the birth of the modern telegraph.
Le hasard favorise l’esprit preparé
Inaugural Address as newly appointed Professor and Dean (Sep 1854) at the opening of the new Faculté des Sciences at Lille (7 Dec 1854). In René Vallery-Radot, The Life of Pasteur, translated by Mrs. R. L. Devonshire (1919), 76.
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The word “electromagnetic” which is used to characterize the phenomena produced by the conducting wires of the voltaic pile, … were those which M. Oersted discovered, exhibited by an electric current and a magnet. I have determined to use the word electrodynamic in order to unite under a common name all these phenomena, and particularly to designate those which I have observed between two voltaic conductors. It expresses their true character, that of being produced by electricity in motion: while the electric attractions and repulsions, which have been known for a long time, are electrostatic phenomena produced by the unequal distribution of electricity at rest in the bodies in which they are observed.
New terminology introduced in 'Experiments on the New Electrodynamical Phenomena', Annales de Chemie et de Physique (1822), Series 2, Vol. 20, 60. As translated in Dagobert David Runes (ed.), A Treasury of World Science (1962), 5.
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Oersted would never have made his great discovery of the action of galvanic currents on magnets had he stopped in his researches to consider in what manner they could possibly be turned to practical account; and so we would not now be able to boast of the wonders done by the electric telegraphs. Indeed, no great law in Natural Philosophy has ever been discovered for its practical implications, but the instances are innumerable of investigations apparently quite useless in this narrow sense of the word which have led to the most valuable results.
From Silvanus Phillips Thompson, 'Introductory Lecture to the Course on Natural Philosophy', The Life of Lord Kelvin (1910), Vol. 1, Appendix to Chap. 5, 249.
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  • 14 Aug - short biography, births, deaths and events on date of Oersted's birth.

Carl Sagan Thumbnail In science it often happens that scientists say, 'You know that's a really good argument; my position is mistaken,' and then they would actually change their minds and you never hear that old view from them again. They really do it. It doesn't happen as often as it should, because scientists are human and change is sometimes painful. But it happens every day. I cannot recall the last time something like that happened in politics or religion. (1987) -- Carl Sagan
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