October 17, 1887 – Death of Gustav Kirchhoff, physicist who investigated electrical circuits, plate theory, chemistry, optics, spectroscopy, and the emission of blackbody radiation

From a very young age he showed academic faculties which led to his enrollment at Albertus University where he attended a mathematical physics seminar for three years to introduce his students to research methods. It is during this time that he became interested in electrical induction and electrical currents.

He graduated in 1847 and moved to Berlin where he taught in an unpaid position between 1848 and 1950 while rectifying what was previously believed regarding electric and electrostatic currents.

He was appointed extraordinary professor at the University of Wroclaw (currently Wroclaw) and moved to another city. In that same year, he solves various problems concerning the deformation of elastic plates and meets the chemist Robert Bunsen, becoming friends. In 1854, Bunsen works in Heidelberg and offers Kirchhoff to join him as a professor of physics. From that moment on, they collaborated very fruitfully.

In 1862, Kirchhoff proposed the name "black body radiation" and postulated two sets of fundamental laws, in classical electric circuit theory and in thermal emission. Although both are known as "Kirchhoff's Laws", this denomination is probably more common in the field of electrical engineering.

His investigations into blackbody radiation were instrumental in the development of quantum theory by presenting his law that for a given atom or molecule, the emission and absorption frequencies are the same.

In 1861, Kirchhoff and Bunsen studied the spectrum of the Sun in 1861, identifying the chemical elements of the solar atmosphere and discovering two new elements in the course of their investigations, cesium and rubidium.

Kirchhoff is known for being the first to explain the dark lines in the Sun's spectrum as a result of the absorption of particular wavelengths as light passes through gases in the Sun's atmosphere, thereby revolutionizing astronomy.

As his health deteriorated due to a disability that forced him to spend much of his life on crutches or in a wheelchair, it became more difficult for him to practice experimentation, so when in 1875 he was offered the chair of mathematical physics at Berlin, he accepted it so that he could continue to make contributions to teaching and conduct theoretical research.

If you want to know more about this scientist, click on the following link: Gustav Robert Kirchhoff

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