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Pioneers in Electronics

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  • James Watt, FRS, FRSE (1736 - 1819)
    Wikipedia Biographical Summary: "... James Watt , (19 January 1736 – 25 August 1819) was a Scottish inventor and mechanical engineer whose improvements to the Newcomen steam engine were fundamental t...
  • Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (1824 - 1887)
    Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (Koningsbergen, 12 maart 1824 – Berlijn, 17 oktober 1887) was een Duits natuurkundige. Kirchhoff is vooral bekend geworden door een aantal wetten op het gebied van de elektrotec...
  • James Clerk Maxwell (1831 - 1879)
    James Clerk Maxwell FRS FRSE (13 June 1831 – 5 November 1879) was a Scottish mathematical physicist. His most prominent achievement was to formulate a set of equations that describe electricity, magn...
  • Michael Faraday, FRS (1791 - 1867)
    Michael Faraday FRS was an English scientist who contributed to the study of electromagnetism and electrochemistry. His main discoveries include the principles underlying electromagnetic induction, dia...
  • Marchese Guglielmo Marconi (1874 - 1937)
    Guglielmo Marconi (25 April 1874– 20 July 1937) was an Italian inventor, known for his development of Marconi's law and a radio telegraph system, which served as the foundation for the establishment of...

Pioneers in Electronics

The object of this project is to gather together people who were Pioneers in electronics, or who have influenced the development of electronics.

Electronics is the branch of physics and technology concerned with the design of circuits using transistors and microchips, and with the behaviour and movement of electrons in a semiconductor, conductor, vacuum, or gas, dealing with the emission and effects of electrons and with the use of electronic devices.

André Marie Ampere, (1775-1836)

French scientist, known for his important contributions to the study of electrodynamics. Ampere, the son of a Lyon city official, was born in Polémieux-au-Mont-d'Or, near Lyon. The ampere, the unit of electric current, is named after him. His electrodynamic theory and his views on the relationship of electricity and magnetism were published in his Recueil d'observations électrodynamiques (Collection of Observations on Electrodynamics, 1822) and in his Théorie des phénomcnes électrodynamiques (Theory of Electrodynamic Phenomena, 1826). Ampcre invented the astatic needle, which made possible the modern astatic galvanometer (see Electric Meters). He was the first to show that two parallel conductors carrying currents traveling in the same direction attract each other and, if traveling in opposite directions, repel each other. Marie Ampere discovered that a coil of wires acted like a magnet when a current is passed thorough it.

François Jean Dominique Arago (1786–1853)

Known as François Arago was a French mathematician, physicist, astronomer, freemason, carbonari and politician. He invented the electromagnet in 1820.çois_Arago

John Bardeen (1908-1991)

Bell Laboratories - developed the first working transistors

Robert Boyle (1627-1691)

Irish 17th-century natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor, also noted for his writings in theology. He discovered that electric force could be transmitted through a vacuum and observed attraction and repulsion.

Walter Houser Brattain (1902 – 1987)

Bell Laboratories - developed the first working transistors

Karl Ferdinand Braun, (1850-1918)

German physicist, inventor, and Nobel Prize winner. Braun is best known for his invention of the first oscilloscope (an electronic instrument that displays changes in the voltage of an electric circuit) made out of a cathode-ray tube (CRT), but he also contributed much to the study of electricity and telegraphy, or wireless communication (see Radio), through groundbreaking research and inventions. He shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in physics with Italian electrical engineer and inventor Guglielmo Marconi for their work on wireless communication.

Born in Fulda, Braun studied at the University of Marburg and received his doctorate from the University of Berlin in 1872, after a dissertation on the vibrations of elastic rods and strings. He began his career as a research assistant at the University of Würzburg, and later held positions at universities in Leipzig, Marburg an der Lahn, Karlsruhe, and Tübingen, where he founded the Physics Institute. From 1880 to 1883 Braun was at Strasbourg, France, and he returned there in 1895 to become professor of physics and director of the Strasbourg Physics Institute.

In 1874 Braun published some of the results of his research on mineral-metal sulfides. He found that these crystals conducted electric currents in only one direction. At the time, the information was important in electrical studies and in measuring electrical conductivity, but Braun's discovery found practical application in the early 20th century when it was employed in crystal radio receivers. The crystal rectifier allowed current to flow in only one direction and improved radio transmission.

Braun also created the first oscilloscope, then called a Braun tube, in 1897. The Braun tube was a valuable laboratory instrument, and modified versions are used in electronic testing and research today. The principle of the Braun tube, moving an electron beam by means of alternating voltage, is the principle on which all television tubes operate. While Braun also made many contributions to pure science, he won honours for his fundamental modification of Marconi's wireless transmitting system. Braun tried to overcome the difficulty in increasing the range of a transmitter beyond 15 km (9 mi). He believed he could expand this range by increasing the power of the transmitter.

Studying the Marconi transmitter, which used a sparking apparatus to produce periodic waves that travel through the air, he learned that attempts to increase the power output by increasing the length of the spark gap eventually reached a limit at which the spark caused a decrease in output. Braun solved this dilemma by producing a sparkles antenna circuit. He magnetically coupled the power from the transmitter to the antenna circuit using a transformer effect instead of having the antenna directly in the power circuit.

Braun's circuit has been applied to all similar transmission, including radio, radar, and television. A patent was granted on this circuit in 1899. Braun also invented a transmitter that channeled the transmission of electric waves in one direction.

Braun gained notoriety outside the laboratory as well when he was called to the United States in 1914 to testify in litigation involving radio broadcasting. He was still in the country in 1917 when the United States entered World War I, and he was not allowed to return to Germany. He died in a Brooklyn, New York, hospital in 1918.

Charles Francis Brush (849 – 1929)

U.S. inventor, entrepreneur and philanthropist. Famous for the "dynamo" (an electrical generator) for powering arc lights. He built his first arc light before 1867. In 1879 First commercial power station opened in San Francisco, using the Charles Brush generator and arc lights.

Hans R. Camenzind (1934 – 2012)

Swiss electronics engineer best known for designing the 555 timer IC in 1970.

Willis Haviland Carrier (1876-1950)

American engineer, best known for inventing modern air conditioning. In 1911 disclosed his basic Rational Psychrometric Formulae to the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. The formula still stands today as the basis in all fundamental calculations for the air conditioning industry.

Henry Cavendish (1731 – 1810)

British natural philosopher, scientist, and an important experimental and theoretical chemist and physicist who started measuring the conductivity of different materials. Cavendish is noted for his discovery of hydrogen or what he called "inflammable air"

Thomas Alva Edison (1847 – 931)

American inventor and businessman. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. He demonstrated his incandescent lamp, Menlo Park, New Jersey in 1879.

Michael Faraday, (1791-1867)

British physicist and chemist, best known for his discoveries of electromagnetic induction and of the laws of electrolysis. Faraday was born on September 22, 1791, in Newington, Surrey, England. He was the son of a blacksmith and received little formal education. While apprenticed to a bookbinder in London, he read books on scientific subjects and experimented with electricity. In 1812 he attended a series of lectures given by the British chemist Sir Humphry Davy and forwarded the notes he took at these lectures to Davy, together with a request for employment. Davy employed Faraday as an assistant in his chemical laboratory at the Royal Institution and in 1813 took Faraday with him on an extended tour of Europe. Faraday was elected to the Royal Society in 1824 and the following year was appointed director of the laboratory of the Royal Institution. In 1833 he succeeded Davy as professor of chemistry at the institution. Two years later he was given a pension of 300 pounds per year for life. Faraday was the recipient of many scientific honours, including the Royal and Rumford medals of the Royal Society; he was also offered the presidency of the society but declined the honour. He died on August 25, 1867, near Hampton Court, Surrey.

Charles Francois du Fay (1698 – 1739)

French chemist and superintendent of the Jardin du Roi who discovered that electricity comes in two forms which he called resinous (-) and vitreous (+). Benjamin Franklin and Ebenezer Kinnersley later renamed the two forms as positive and negative.

John Ambrose Fleming (1849-1945)

English electrical engineer and physicist. He is known for inventing the first thermionic valve or vacuum tube, the diode, then called the kenotron in 1904.

Lee de Forest (1873-1961)

American inventor with over 180 patents to his credit. In 1906 De Forest invented the Audion, the first triode vacuum tube and the first electrical device which could amplify a weak electrical signal and make it stronger (electric amplifier). The Audion and vacuum tubes developed from it founded the field of electronics and dominated it for 40 years, making possible radio broadcasting, television, and long distance telephone service, among many other applications.

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. He invented the lightning rod, bifocals, the Franklin stove, a carriage odometer, and the glass 'armonica'. He conducted experiment with static charges in the air and theorised about the existence of an electrical fluid that could be composed of particles. William Watson discharged a Leyden jar through a circuit, that began the comprehension of current and circuit.

Luigi Galvani (1737-1798)

Italian physician who demonstrated what we now understand to be the electrical basis of nerve impulses when he made frog muscles twitch by jolting them with a spark from an electrostatic machine. See Volta below.

William Gilbert (1544-1603)

English scientist, who first coined the term "electricity" from the Greek word for amber. Gilbert wrote about the electrification of many substances in his "De magnete, magneticisique corporibus". He also first used the terms electric force, magnetic pole, and electric attraction.

Stephen Gray (1666 – 1736)

English dyer and amateur astronomer, who was the first to systematically experiment with electrical conduction, rather than simple generation of static charges and investigations of the static phenomena. He was instrumental in the discovery of the conduction of electricity in 1729.

Sir William Robert Grove (1811-1896)

Welsh judge and physical scientist. He anticipated the general theory of the conservation of energy, and was a pioneer of fuel cell technology. In 1839 he invented the first fuel cell

Otto von Guericke (1602-1686)

Invented a machine that produced static electricity. German scientist, inventor, and politician. His major scientific achievements were the establishment of the physics of vacuums, the discovery of an experimental method for clearly demonstrating electrostatic repulsion, and his advocacy of the reality of "action at a distance" and of "absolute space".

Joseph Henry (1797-1878)

American scientist whose electromagnetic experiments lead to the concept of electrical inductance in 1827. Joseph Henry built one of the first electrical motors.

Gustav Hertz, (1887-1975)

German physicist and Nobel laureate, born in Hamburg, and educated at the universities of Göttingen, Munich, and Berlin. In conjunction with the American physicist James Franck, Hertz studied the effect of the impact of electrons on atoms. As a result of these experiments, which were the first demonstration of the quantum theory of the German physicist Max Planck, Hertz and Franck were awarded the 1925 Nobel Prize in physics. Hertz served as professor of experimental physics at the University of Halle from 1925 to 1927 and at the Berlin Technische Hochschule from 1928 to 1935, when he became director of the Siemens Research Laboratory in Berlin. In 1945 he went to the USSR to continue his work in atomic research; he was awarded the Stalin Prize in 1951.

James Prescott Joule FRS (1818 – 1889)

English physicist and brewer, born in Salford, Lancashire. Joule studied the nature of heat, and discovered its relationship to mechanical work (see energy). This led to the Law of conservation of energy, and this led to the development of the First law of thermodynamics. The SI derived unit of energy, the joule, is named for James Joule. He worked with Lord Kelvin to develop the absolute scale of temperature. Joule also made observations of magnetostriction, and he found the relationship between the current through a resistor and the heat dissipated, which is now called Joule's first law.

Gustav Robert Kirchhoff, (1824-87)

German physicist, born in Königsberg (now Kaliningrad, Russia), and educated at the University of Königsberg. He was professor of physics at the universities of Breslau, Heidelberg, and Berlin. With the German chemist Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, Kirchhoff developed the modern spectroscope for chemical analysis. In 1860 the two scientists discovered the elements cesium and rubidium by means of spectrum analysis. Kirchhoff conducted important investigations of radiation heat transfer and also postulated two rules, now known as Kirchhoff's laws of networks, concerning the distribution of current in electric circuits.

Georg Von Kleist (1700-1748)

On 11 October 1745 Kleist independently invented the Kleistian jar, more commonly known as the Leyden jar after graduate student Pieter van Musschenbroek of Leyden. He discovered that electricity was controllable. Dutch physicist, Pieter van Musschenbroek invented the "Leyden Jar" the first electrical capacitor. Leyden jars store static electricity.

Guglielmo Marchese Marconi, (1874-1937),

Italian electrical engineer and Nobel laureate, known as the inventor of the first practical radio-signalling system. He was born in Bologna and educated at the University of Bologna. As early as 1890 he became interested in wireless telegraphy, and by 1895 he had developed an apparatus with which he succeeded in sending signals to a point a few kilometers away by means of a directional antenna. After patenting his system in Great Britain, he formed (1897) Marconi's Wireless Telegraph Company, Ltd., in London. In 1899 he established communication across the English Channel between England and France, and in 1901 he communicated signals across the Atlantic Ocean between Poldhu, in Cornwall, England, and St. John's, in Newfoundland. His system was soon adopted by the British and Italian navies, and by 1907 had been so much improved that transatlantic wireless telegraph service was established for public use. Marconi was awarded honours by many countries and received, jointly with the German physicist Karl Ferdinand Braun, the 1909 Nobel Prize in physics for his work in wireless telegraphy. During World War I he was in charge of the Italian wireless service and developed shortwave transmission as a means of secret communication. In the remaining years of his life he experimented with shortwaves and microwaves.

James Clerk Maxwell, (1831-1879)

British physicist, best known for his work on the connection between light and electromagnetic waves (traveling waves of energy). Maxwell discovered that light consists of electromagnetic waves (see Electromagnetic Radiation) and established the kinetic theory of gases. The kinetic theory of gases explains the relationship between the movement of molecules in a gas and the gas's temperature and other properties. He also showed that the rings of the planet Saturn are made up of many small particles and demonstrated the principles governing colour vision. Maxwell was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. He was educated at Edinburgh Academy from 1841 to 1847, when he entered the University of Edinburgh. He then went on to study at the University of Cambridge in 1850, graduating with a bachelor's degree in mathematics in 1854. He became a professor of natural philosophy at Marischal College in Aberdeen in 1856. Then in 1860 he moved to London to become a professor of natural philosophy and astronomy at King's College. On the death of his father in 1865, Maxwell returned to his family home in Scotland and devoted himself to research. In 1871 he moved to Cambridge, where he became the first professor of experimental physics and set up the Cavendish Laboratory, which opened in 1874. Maxwell continued in this position until 1879, when illness forced him to resign.

Hans Christian Ørsted (1777-1851)

Danish physicist and chemist who discovered that electric currents create magnetic fields, an important aspect of electromagnetism. He shaped post-Kantian philosophy and advances in science throughout the late 19th century. He confirmed the relationship of electricity and magnetism when he observed that electrical currents effected the needle on a compass.

Georg Simon Ohm, (1787-1854)

German physicist, best known for his research on electrical currents. He was born in Erlangen and educated at the University of Erlangen. From 1833 to 1849 he was director of the Polytechnic Institute of Nürnberg, and from 1852 until his death he was professor of experimental physics at the University of Munich. His formulation of the relationship between current, electromotive force, and resistance, known as Ohm's law, is the basic law of current flow. The unit of electrical resistance was named the ohm in his honour.

Joseph Priestley (1733-1804)

English theologian, Dissenting clergyman, natural philosopher, chemist, educator, and political theorist who published over 150 works. He is usually credited with the discovery of oxygen, having isolated it in its gaseous state, although Carl Wilhelm Scheele and Antoine Lavoisier also have a claim to the discovery. He discovered that electricity followed Newton's inverse-square law of gravity.

Ernest R. Rutherford (1871-1937)

New Zealand-born physicist and chemist who became known as the father of nuclear physics. He measured the distribution of an electric charge within the atom in 1910.

William Shockley (1910-1989)

Bell Laboratories - developed the first working transistors

Charles Ezra Scribner (1858-1926)

Charles E Scribner was the inventor of the "jack-knife switch" so called because the part of it that the operator held looked like the handle of a jackknife. He was chief engineer at Western Electric, held more patents (441) than any man in an electrical industry. His most important contribution was the development of the multiple switchboard, an important component of networks. Charles Ezra Scribner was born in Mount Vernon, Ohio, February 16, 1858, son of Charles Harvey and Mary Elizabeth (Morehouse) Scribner.

Alessandro Volta, (1745 - 1827 )

Volta was born in Italy long before science was broken up into specialities. After studying chemistry (he discovered methane in 1776), he became a professor of physics and became interested in the so-called galvanic response, whereby a frog's leg will twitch in response to a jolt of static electricity. Using a wine glass full of salt water, Volta demonstrated that the chemical reaction between two electrodes, one made of copper, the other of zinc, will generate a steady electric current. In 1800, he refined his apparatus by stacking plates of copper and zinc, separated by cardboard soaked in salt and water. This "voltaic pile" was the first electronic battery.

James Watt (1736-1819)

Born in Scotland James Watt is known as the inventor of the steam engine. He set up a small workshop in the University of Glasgow where he struggled to perfect an efficient design for using steam to move a piston in a cylinder. Financial problems and the primitive state of the art of metal working delayed practical applications until 1776. Despite difficulties in obtaining patents (which could only be granted by an act of parliament at that time), Watt and his business partner eventually made a lot of money from his innovations. Although he pre-dated the pioneers in electricity, in 1889 (70 years after his death), his name was assigned to the basic unit of electric power that can be defined by multiplying amperes by volts.

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