Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit – The First Thermometers
Gabriel Fahrenheit was a German physicist who made the first thermometers. One temperature measurement scale is named after it – the Fahrenheit Scale.
Early life of Gabriel Fahrenheit
He was born on May 24, 1686 in Danzig, Germany. He was one of five children of the renowned merchant Daniel Fahrenheit and his wife, the Concordia. Fahrenheit lost both his parents when he was only fifteen years old, so he went to Amsterdam to work for and learn from a merchant. After completing his 4-year training, he began to be interested in the creation of scientific instruments.
Although he spent most of his life in Amsterdam, he traveled a lot, observing the work of various scientists and people who made science instruments. For some time he lived in England, where he became a member of the Royal Society (the British oldest group of scientists).
The first two thermometers were made in 1714. They were filled with alcohol and showed the same temperature. He made various variants of the scale, which will later become Fahrenheit, because he perfected it. The improvements began when alcohol was replaced by mercury, performing a series of experiments, same as Danish astronomer Ole Romer did before him. These experiments determined the point of boiling water and other liquids, and studied the rise in the strength of mercury. Based on these experiments, it came to the conclusion that the boiling point of water changes depending on the change in atmospheric pressure. He also discovered a method of super-cooling water, i.e. defined the point to which water can be cooled below a normal point of frost (hardening), yet it does not become ice.
Because of its discoveries, Fahrenheit began to doubt the reliability of the points of boiling and frosting. In the end, he decided to make a scale for measuring temperatures from the ranges from 0 to 212. In the Journal published by the Royal Society in 1724, he presented in detail the methods he used during the experiments and making thermometers, and he also described his inventions. The temperature of the combination of water, ice and sea salt was set at 0 degrees, ice and water temperature to 32 degrees, and the temperature of the approximate boiling point at 212 degrees.
Success and new discoveries
Fahrenheit thermometers were extremely popular, and it is believed that he successfully used the mercury because he was cleaning it in a special, unique way. However, a detailed description of the process of making thermometers was given only after 18 years because Fahrenheit wanted the method to remain his secret.
He has also made other instruments, such as a hydrometer (an instrument that measures the rate of flow of liquids) and a thermobiometer (a device that estimates atmospheric pressure determining the point of boiling water).
Gabriel Fahrenheit died on September 16, 1736, in the Netherlands, and was buried in The Hague. He never married, and through his scientific work he has been active until his death. Just before he died, he had the desire to patronize a machine that pumped water from polder, i.e. dry land in the Netherlands below the sea level.