What Heinrich Hertz discovered about electric waves in 1887–1888

Archive for History of Exact Sciences 75 (2):125-171 (2020)
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Among the most influential and well-known experiments of the 19th century was the generation and detection of electromagnetic radiation by Heinrich Hertz in 1887–1888, work that bears favorable comparison for experimental ingenuity and influence with that by Michael Faraday in the 1830s and 1840s. In what follows, we pursue issues raised by what Hertz did in his experimental space to produce and to detect what proved to be an extraordinarily subtle effect. Though he did provide evidence for the existence of such radiation that other investigators found compelling, nevertheless Hertz’s data and the conclusions he drew from it ran counter to the claim of Maxwell’s electrodynamics that electric waves in air and wires travel at the same speed. Since subsequent experiments eventually suggested otherwise, the question arises of just what took place in Hertz’s. The difficulties attendant on designing, deploying, and interpreting novel apparatus go far in explaining his results, which were nevertheless sufficiently convincing that other investigators, and Hertz himself, soon took up the challenge of further investigation based on his initial designs.



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Author Profiles

Noah Stemeroff
Universität Bonn
Chen-Pang Yeang
University of Toronto
Quinn Harrington
University of King's College

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References found in this work

On the process of Hertz's conversion to Hertzian waves.Manuel G. Doncel - 1991 - Archive for History of Exact Sciences 43 (1):1-27.
Heinrich Hertz's laboratory notes of 1887.H. G. Hertz & Manuel G. Doncel - 1995 - Archive for History of Exact Sciences 49 (3):197-270.
A Potential Disagreement Between Helmholtz and Hertz.Jed Z. Buchwald - 2001 - Archive for History of Exact Sciences 55 (4):365-393.
Review of Jed Z. Buchwald: The Creation of Scientific Effects[REVIEW]Jed Z. Buchwald - 1997 - British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 48 (1):109-112.

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