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What Heinrich Hertz discovered about electric waves in 1887–1888

Buchwald, Jed and Yeang, Chen-Pang and Stemeroff, Noah and Barton, Jenifer and Harrington, Quinn (2021) What Heinrich Hertz discovered about electric waves in 1887–1888. Archive for History of Exact Sciences, 75 (2). pp. 125-171. ISSN 0003-9519.

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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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Additional Information:© 2020 Springer. Received 13 August 2020; Published 25 September 2020. The project received financial support from the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, grant no. 435-2014-0385, with Yeang as principal investigator in Canada. Buchwald received support from the Division of Humanities and Social Sciences at Caltech. Stemeroff, Barton, and Harrington performed the replication of Hertz’s wave experiment at Toronto under Yeang’s direction, participating at all stages of design, construction, data recording, and analysis. Stemeroff participated with Brenni, Buchwald and Yeang in the replication at Florence. We especially thank Dr. Paolo Brenni and Anna Giatti for their extraordinary work in producing the apparatus for the Florence reproduction. We also thank Dr. Curtis Forbes for his help with the construction of the experimental apparatus in Toronto. There are no conflicts of interest on the parts of any of the authors. The original version of this article was revised to correct the footnote two. Communicated by Jed Buchwald.
Errata:Buchwald, J., Yeang, C., Stemeroff, N. et al. Correction to: What Heinrich Hertz discovered about electric waves in 1887–1888. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. (2020).
Funding AgencyGrant Number
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)435-2014-0385
Caltech Division of Humanities and Social SciencesUNSPECIFIED
Issue or Number:2
Record Number:CaltechAUTHORS:20201009-153038452
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Official Citation:Buchwald, J., Yeang, CP., Stemeroff, N. et al. What Heinrich Hertz discovered about electric waves in 1887–1888. Arch. Hist. Exact Sci. 75, 125–171 (2021).
Usage Policy:No commercial reproduction, distribution, display or performance rights in this work are provided.
ID Code:105975
Deposited By: Tony Diaz
Deposited On:09 Oct 2020 22:43
Last Modified:09 Feb 2021 18:54

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