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Hans Christian Ørsted

1777-1851. Ørsted was the son of an apothecary and himself a trained pharmacist.

His first publication, in 1797, was a treatise on amniotic fluid, and two years later he was awarded a doctorate for a dissertation on Kant's philosophy.

After 1800 he studied the new galvanism, spending 1801-04 in Germany, where he worked with J.W. Ritter and was fascinated both by J.J. Winterl's remarkable chemical philosophy and by Fichte's ideas on universal reason and the unity of natural forces. On the other hand he was put off by French mathematical physics.

In 1806 he was the first to be appointed Professor of Physics in Copenhagen since 1732, and from 1815 to his death he was Secretary to the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters. His discovery of the magnetic effect of electrical currents in 1820 was immediately recognised as an epoch-making advance, although he left further work on electromagnetism to others.

He himself studied the compressibility of water and also succeeded in producing pure aluminium. After 1820 he was the determining influence on research policy in Denmark.

In 1824 he founded the popular Society for the Propagation of the Natural Doctrine, and in 1829 he was the initiator behind the establishment of the Technical University of Denmark, where engineering received a scientific foundation.

Olaf Pedersen, Gyldendal Leksikon

other great danes

The lives and achievements of all these Great Danes and many more are outlined in biographies of varying lengths on these pages. Read more about The Great Danes