Heinrich Hertz

Heinrich Rudolf Hertz was born on 22nd February 1857 in the hanseatic city of Hamburg in Germany. He was the eldest of the three sons and daughter of Dr G.F. Hertz, a prominent lawyer who subsequently became an appeal court judge.

Hertz showed outstanding promise from a young age; his memory was excellent, he had great capacity for learning – particularly mathematics and languages in which he excelled, and he was skilful in using tools of all kinds. Until he was 15 years of age, Hertz attended a private school.”

After leaving Dr. Lange’s school Hertz spent two years studying at home before entering, the Johanneum Gymnasium in Hamburg in 1874. After one year, he was awarded a certificate that qualified him to gain entry to a university. He used to spend his spare time in his workshop/laboratory that he had set up in the basement of his parent’s house.

Following the period at Hamburg Gymnasium, hertz spent one year as an apprentice in the city engineer’s office and then he enrolled on an engineering course at Dresden Technische Hochschule. Later in October 1877 he became a student at the University of Munich. As part of the bright students customary progress from one university to the other, Hertz moved on to University of Berlin. His combination of theoretical and experimental work was so remarkable that during the next spring he was allowed to present his research as his doctoral dissertation, “On Induction in Rotating Spheres,” and received the degree magna cum laude. In the University of Berlin, he came in contact with Prof. Helmholtz.

After graduation he remained as an assistant to Helmholtz for three years and during this 3 years there Hertz’s most remarkable achievement was his work on the pressure arising between two plates in contact. The influence of his conclusions on the construction of precision instruments was so great that his paper “On the Contact of Elastic Solids” was simultaneously published in a scientific and a technical magazine. In March 1885 Hertz became a professor at Technische Hochschule, Karlruhe.

On November 10, 1887, he sent to the Berlin Academy the now historic report “On Electromagnetic Effects Produced by Electrical Disturbances in Insulators,” disclosing that he had obtained oscillatory inductive action at distances up to 12 meters. While the result was a triumph for Maxwell’s theory, Hertz knew that one also had to settle the question of the finite velocity of the propagation of the inductive effect across space. This he did in 1888, and the same year he also proved that electromagnetic waves could be reflected as predicted by Maxwell’s theory.”  (BookRags)

Hertz proved that electricity can be transmitted in electromagnetic waves, which travel at the speed of light and which possess many other properties of light.  His experiments with these electromagnetic waves led to the development of the wireless telegraph and the radio. He devised a transmitting oscillator, which radiated radio waves, and detected them using a metal loop with a gap at one side. When the loop was placed within the transmitter’s electromagnetic field, sparks were produced across the gap. This proved that electromagnetic waves could be sent out into space, and be remotely detected. 

The discovery of electromagnetic waves was well received by the scientific world and Hertz gained national and international recognition. His name also became the term used for radio and electrical frequencies: Hertz (Hz), as in kilohertz (kHz) or megahertz (MHz).

Unfortunately Hertz did not live to see the technological advancements that his fundamental work offered.

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