Hans Christian Ørsted

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Hans Christian Ørsted
Ørsted monument in Rudkøbing
Ørsted monument in Ørstedpark ( Danish Ørstedsparken ) in Copenhagen

Hans Christian Ørsted , German Hans Christian Oersted [ ˈœrsdɛð ] (born August 14, 1777 in Rudkøbing , † March 9, 1851 in Copenhagen ) was a Danish physicist , chemist and natural philosopher . In 1820 Ørsted discovered the magnetic effect of electricity and is considered to be a co-founder of electricity theory and electrical engineering . Ørsted was instrumental in founding the Polytechnische Lehranstalt ( Danish Den Polytekniske Læreanstalt ) in Copenhagen in 1829 , the predecessor of today's Technical University of Denmark . From the time it opened, he was the principal of the school until his death. He is considered one of the leading personalities of Denmark's Golden Age.


Hans Christian Ørsted was born the son of the pharmacist Søren Christian Ørsted. Since there was no general school education until 1814, Hans Christian and his younger brother Anders Sandøe Ørsted received mainly lessons from a German wig maker and his wife, where they u. a. Learned German , mathematics and the Lutheran catechisms . Ørsted's interest in science was aroused by working in his father's pharmacy, where he began helping out when he was twelve. He obtained his further education mainly self-taught and went to Copenhagen in 1793 to take his entrance examination at the University of Copenhagen , where he then studied natural sciences and pharmacy . He passed the pharmaceutical exams in 1797. In 1799 he obtained his doctorate with a dissertation on Kant's natural philosophy with the title On the Architectonics of Natural Metaphysics and was adjunct in 1800 .

From 1801 to 1804 he went on an extensive study trip through Europe. Among other things, he spent several months in France and Germany, where he became personally known with the natural scientist Henrich Steffens , the engineer and social reformer Franz von Baader , who met in Munich , the natural philosopher Schelling , who influenced him philosophically, and the physicist Johann Wilhelm Ritter . Ritter was the inventor of the first battery, the Ritter'schen charge column, dealt with galvanism and is considered a co-founder of electrochemistry . Ørsted had a long friendship with Ritter and his natural philosophical ideas and views were among the cornerstones for Ørsted's later research on electromagnetism. 1806 Ørsted became an associate professor of chemistry and physics at the University of Copenhagen. There he became a full professor of physics in 1817 and served as rector in 1825/26 and 1840/41.

In January 1812 he was accepted as crowned hope in the Copenhagen Freemason Lodge Friedrich and on his wedding day in 1814, on which he married Inger Birgitte Ballum, the Copenhagen lodges made him an honorary member . Ørsted and his wife had three sons and four daughters. The writer Hans Christian Andersen (1805–1875) maintained a long-standing friendship with Ørsted and was influenced by his views on natural philosophy, which, according to John L. Greenway, is particularly reflected in his fairy tale The Bell . As a literary connoisseur and convinced of Andersen's talent, Ørsted was a driving force behind the publication of Andersen's fairy tales in 1835 ( Eventyr, fortalte for Børn 1835–1848, German "fairy tales told for children"). The holistic worldview, in turn, drove Ørsted to describe the relationship between the forces of nature not just with mathematical formulas, but with a poetic-philosophical language.

In 1824 he founded the Danish Society for the Dissemination of Nature . On the initiative of Ørsted, the Polytechnische Lehranstalt ( Danish Den Polytekniske Læreanstalt ; predecessor of Denmark's Technical University ) was founded in Copenhagen in 1829 , the first rector of which he was from the opening until his death in 1851. When he died in Copenhagen at the age of 73, he was a recognized physicist, chemist and astronomer , and is now considered one of the leading figures of Denmark's Golden Age . His grave is in the assistance cemetery in the Nørrebro district of Copenhagen .

Hans Christian Ørsted is the great grandfather of racing cyclist Hans-Henrik Ørsted .



1819 Oersted first isolated piperidine from black pepper and 1825, he succeeded by reaction of aluminum chloride (AlCl 3 ) with potassium amalgam first the representation of aluminum .


In 1820, during a lecture, Ørsted observed the deflection of a compass needle by a wire carrying a current and thus discovered the magnetic effect of the electric current. He then undertook further experiments on this. In the same year he designed the piezometer . Ørsted was not the first to discover a connection between electricity and magnetism , as the Italian Gian Domenico Romagnosi had made the same observations 18 years earlier . However, at that time these were ignored and forgotten. Ørsted, who was already inclined towards holistic ideas, immediately recognized the importance of the link between the two phenomena. He sparked the development of electricity and electrical engineering with the publication of a four-page treatise in Latin on his discovery and knowledge . The now obsolete cgs - unit of magnetic field strength (abbreviated with the unit symbol Oe) was named after Ørsted .

He also carried out research on the properties of liquids and gases, with a focus on their compressibility .


Ørsted was the first to introduce the term thought experiment as a relationship between mathematical and physical knowledge in Kant . The coining of the term is attributed to Ernst Mach , however, since Ørsted's Kantian perspective remained almost without any conceptual historical influence.


Johann Wolfgang von Goethe became aware of Ørsted's pioneering work and invited him to demonstrate his experiments at the Weimar court. At first André-Marie Ampère was skeptical, but was convinced by the repetitions of the experiments. Michael Faraday was impressed by the research results and discovered electromagnetic induction eleven years later . This early research of the 19th century culminated in the theory of classical electrodynamics by the Scotsman James Clerk Maxwell , who with his equations brought about innovations such as power generation , drives , optical inventions, telegraphy and mobile communications .


Honors during your lifetime

In 1808 Ørstedt became a member of the Royal Danish Society of Sciences, of which he was elected secretary in 1815, and in 1809 he became a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences and in 1821 its foreign member. Even Prussia praised his scientific findings and awarded him in 1842 the same year by Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Founded the Order Pour le Mérite for Sciences and Arts . Since 1820 he was also a corresponding member of the Royal Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin and since 1821 an external member of the Royal Society and a full member of the Royal Society of Edinburgh . In 1823 he became a corresponding and in 1843 a foreign member ( associé étranger ) of the Académie des Sciences in Paris. In 1826 he was elected a foreign member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences . In 1849 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences .

Posthumous honors

The first Danish satellite Ørsted , launched in 1999 , for the high-precision measurement of the earth's magnetic field , and the lunar crater Oersted were named after him in his honor. Ørsted was also the namesake for the first ship designed and successfully used as a cable lay , the HC Ørsted of Det Store Nordiske Telegraf-Selskab, built by Burmeister & Wain in Copenhagen in 1872 .

The American Physical Society awards the Oersted Medal for outstanding achievements in physics didactics and teaching .

The asteroid (16583) Oersted was named after him on July 22, 2013.

In 2020, on the anniversary of its discovery 200 years ago, Denmark honored Ørsted with a special exhibition in Copenhagen, in which the original equipment of his experiment was shown.


The spirit in nature. 2 from 1854
  • HC Orsted's Theory of Force: An Unpublished Textbook in Dynamical Chemistry. Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, 2003, ISBN 87-7876-326-6 . ( Preview in GoogleBooks )
  • The spirit in nature. German original edition by the author, Munich 1850. ( Preview in GoogleBooks )
  • The mechanical part of natural science. Friedrich Vieweg and son, Braunschweig 1851. ( Preview in GoogleBooks )
  • Overview of Ørsted's writings in the Annals of Physics and (physical) chemistry at: Wikisource .
  • Karen Jelved, Andrew D. Jackson, Ole Knudsen (Eds.): Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted . Princeton University Press, 1998, ISBN 0-691-04334-5 (English).


  • Robert M. Brain, Robert S. Cohen, Ole Knudsen (Eds.): Hans Christian Ørsted and the Romantic Legacy in Science: Ideas, Disciplines, Practices (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science) . Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht 2007, ISBN 978-1-4020-2979-0 (English).
  • Bern Dibner: Oersted and the discovery of electromagnetism . Burndy Library, Norwalk CT 1961 (English).
  • Dietrich von Engelhardt : Ørsted, Hans Christian. In: Werner E. Gerabek , Bernhard D. Haage, Gundolf Keil , Wolfgang Wegner (eds.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , p. 1078.
  • Ole Immanuel Franksen: Hans Christian Ørsted - A man of two cultures . Strandberg Edition, Birkerød 1981, ISBN 87-87200-43-0 (English).
  • Rolf Lindborg: Andes in nature. Natural filo stove Hans Christian Ørsted, experimental physicist . Nya Dox, Nora 1998, ISBN 91-578-0032-4 (Danish).
  • L. Pearce Williams: Oersted, Hans Christian . In: Charles Coulston Gillispie (Ed.): Dictionary of Scientific Biography . tape 10 : SG Navashin - W. Piso . Charles Scribner's Sons, New York 1974, p. 182-186 .
  • K. Jäger, F. Heilbronner (ed.): Lexikon der Elektrotechniker , VDE Verlag, 2nd edition from 2010, Berlin / Offenbach, ISBN 978-3-8007-2903-6 , pp. 315-316

Web links

Commons : Hans Christian Ørsted  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert M. Brain, Robert S. Cohen, Ole Knudsen (Eds.): Hans Christian Ørsted and the Romantic Legacy in Science: Ideas, Disciplines, Practices (Boston Studies in the Philosophy of Science) . Springer Netherlands, Dordrecht 2007, ISBN 978-1-4020-2979-0 , pp. 24 ff . ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  2. General German real encyclopedia for the educated classes . FA Brockhaus Verlag, Leipzig 1835, p. 137 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  3. ^ List of rectors on the University of Copenhagen website
  4. ^ William R. Denslow, Harry S. Truman : 10,000 Famous Freemasons from K to Z Part Two . Kessinger Publishing, ISBN 1-4179-7579-2 .
  5. Eugen Lennhoff, Oskar Posner, Dieter A. Binder: Internationales Freemaurer Lexikon . 5th edition. Herbig Verlag, 2006, ISBN 978-3-7766-2478-6 , pp. 620 .
  6. ^ Association of German Freemasons (ed.): General Handbook of Freemasonry . Third, completely revised edition of Lenning's Encyclopedia of Freemasonry . Max Hesses Verlag, Leipzig 1900.
  7. ^ A b Ioan James: Remarkable Physicists - From Galileo to Yukawa . Cambridge Univ. Press, 2004, ISBN 0-521-01706-8 , pp. 102-106 .
  8. ^ Hans Jørgen Jensen: Hans Christian Ørsted, naturfilosof og videnskabsmand 1777-1851. In: KULTURCENTRET ASSISTENS. Archived from the original on January 27, 2012 ; Retrieved August 18, 2012 (Danish).
  9. ^ John L. Greenway: "Reason in Imagination is Beauty": Ørsted's Acoustics and Andersen's "The Bell" . In: Jon Stewart: Kierkegaard and his Contemporaries. The Culture of Golden Age Denmark (=  Kierkegaard Studies Monograph Series 10 ). Walter de Gruyter, 2003, ISBN 3-11-017762-5 , p. 262–271 ( limited preview in Google Book search).
  10. ^ A short history of DTU. In: dtu.dk. Retrieved February 19, 2018 .
  11. ^ Hans Christian Ørsted. In: dtu.dk: History / Personer / Rector. Retrieved February 19, 2018 (Danish).
  12. Mest vindende cykelryttere fra Danmark. In: bikester.dk. November 14, 2018, accessed April 1, 2019 (Danish).
  13. a b Wolfgang H. Müller: Forays through the continuum theory, Springer-Verlag, 2011, p. 284 [1]
  14. Ludwig Darmstaedter, René Du Bois-Reymond, Carl Schaefer: Handbook for the history of natural sciences and technology, Springer-Verlag, 1908, p. 334
  15. Norbert Welsch, Jürgen Schwab, Claus Liebmann: Matter: Earth, Water, Air and Fire, Springer-Verlag, 2013, p. 78 [2]
  16. John Joseph Fahie, A History of the Electric Telegraph to the Year 1837 , p. 273 , London: E. & FN Spon, 1884 OCLC 559318239 .
  17. Experimenta circa effectum conflictus electrici in acum magneticam , self-published 1820.
  18. ^ Johan Schloemann: Hans Christian Oersted: Pioneer of electromagnetism. Retrieved July 23, 2020 .
  19. Marco Buzzoni: Kant and the thought experiment. About a Kantian theory of thought experiments in the natural sciences and in philosophy. In: German magazine for philosophy. Vol. 59, No. 1, 2011, pp. 93-107.
  20. Ulrich Kühne: Thought experiment and explanation. In: Bremer Philosophica. Vol. 5, 1997, pp. 1-51. pitt.edu (PDF)
  21. ^ The order Pour le Mérite for sciences and arts (ed.): The members of the order . 1st volume 1842 -1881. Gebrüder Mann Verlag, Berlin 1975, ISBN 3-7861-6189-5 , p. 78 ( orden-pourlemerite.de [PDF]).
  22. The Order Pour Le Mérite for Science and the Arts . Members by year of admission (1842) orden-pourlemerite.de; Retrieved March 8, 2012.
  23. ^ Members of the previous academies. Hans Christian Oersted. Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities , accessed on May 17, 2015 .
  24. ^ Entry on Oersted, Hans Christian (1777-1851) in the archive of the Royal Society , London
  25. ^ Fellows Directory. Biographical Index: Former RSE Fellows 1783–2002. (PDF file) Royal Society of Edinburgh, accessed March 26, 2020 .
  26. ^ List of members since 1666: Letter O. Académie des sciences, accessed on January 28, 2020 (French).
  27. Holger Krahnke: The members of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen 1751-2001 (= treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Philological-Historical Class. Volume 3, Vol. 246 = Treatises of the Academy of Sciences in Göttingen, Mathematical-Physical Class. Episode 3, Volume 50). Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 3-525-82516-1 , p. 181.
  28. ^ Peter Stauning: The Ørsted Satellite Project. Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI), 2008 unibz.it (PDF)
  29. ^ Bill Glover: The Great Northern Telegraph Company. History of the Atlantic Cable & Undersea Communications, 2011; Retrieved May 28, 2013.