Definitions

Kirchhoff

Kirchhoff

[keerkh-hawf]
Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert, 1824-87, German physicist. He served as professor of physics at the universities of Breslau (1850-54), Heidelberg (1854-74), and Berlin (from 1875). He is known especially for his work with the spectroscope in association with R. W. Bunsen, with whom he discovered the elements cesium and rubidium, and for his explanation of the Fraunhofer lines in the solar spectrum. He also did important research in electricity (he formulated Kirchhoff's laws) and thermodynamics.

(born March 12, 1824, Königsberg, Prussia—died Oct. 17, 1887, Berlin, Ger.) German physicist. Kirchhoff's laws (1845) allow calculation of the currents, voltages, and resistances of electrical networks (he was the first to show that current flows through a conductor at the speed of light) and generalized the equations describing current flow to three dimensions. With Robert Bunsen, he demonstrated that every element emits coloured light when heated at wavelengths specific to it, a fact that is the basis of spectrum analysis. They used this new research tool to discover cesium (1860) and rubidium (1861), and began a new era in astronomy when they applied it to the spectrum of the sun.

Learn more about Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert with a free trial on Britannica.com.

(born March 12, 1824, Königsberg, Prussia—died Oct. 17, 1887, Berlin, Ger.) German physicist. Kirchhoff's laws (1845) allow calculation of the currents, voltages, and resistances of electrical networks (he was the first to show that current flows through a conductor at the speed of light) and generalized the equations describing current flow to three dimensions. With Robert Bunsen, he demonstrated that every element emits coloured light when heated at wavelengths specific to it, a fact that is the basis of spectrum analysis. They used this new research tool to discover cesium (1860) and rubidium (1861), and began a new era in astronomy when they applied it to the spectrum of the sun.

Learn more about Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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