xxxxxIt was around 1650 that, testing an idea put forward by the mathematician René Descartes, the German physicist Otto von Guericke created a vacuum. The Italian scientist Evangelista Torricelli had achieved this earlier in an upright tube, but Guericke, using an air pump, produced a vacuum in a copper sphere. Then in 1654, in a public demonstration, he showed that two teams of horses could not pull apart a ball made up of two metal hemispheres from which the air had been removed. Based on the success of these so-
OTTO VON GUERICKE 1602 -
Guericke: engraving by the Flemish artist Anselmus van Hulle (c1601-
xxxxxThe German physicist Otto von Guericke was born in Magdeburg. He was educated at Leipzig University, and then studied law at the University of Jena and mathematics and mechanics at the University of Leyden. He returned to his native city in 1627 and entered politics, but his career was cut short four years later when, at the height of the Thirty Years' War, Magdeburg, having resisted a siege in 1629, was stormed by Imperial forces. The city was sacked and burned, and some 20,000 of its inhabitants were butchered. He and his family only just managed to escape, and he then worked as an engineer in the Swedish army, and later for the government of Saxony. During his absence he represented his city at various conferences and, on returning to Magdeburg, became its mayor from 1646 to 1676.
xxxxxIt was soon after returning to Magdeburg, that Guericke -
xxxxxThen in 1654, to demonstrate in dramatic form the incredible force that outside air pressure exerted on a vacuum, Guericke set up an extraordinary public experiment at Regensburg in the presence of Emperor Ferdinand III. He fitted two metal hemispheres (hollow half-
xxxxxThese experiments led him on to study the effect of altitude on pressure, and the consequences that atmospheric pressure had upon weather conditions. By 1660 he was using a water barometer to predict changes in the weather, and advocating the establishment of meteorological stations throughout the country to provide data for a forecasting service.
xxxxxIn 1663 Guericke's ever-