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Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (Gabriel Daniel Fahrenheit) (24 May 1686 in Danzig (Gdańsk) – 16 September 1736 in The Hague, Netherlands) was a German physicist and engineer who worked most of his life in the Netherlands. The °F Fahrenheit scale of temperature is named after him. This was used long before the Celsius scale.

Biography

The Fahrenheit family were merchants that had moved from one Hanseatic League city to the other. Fahrenheit's greatgrandfather had lived in Rostock, although research suggests that the Fahrenheit family originated in Hildesheim[1]. Daniel's grandfather Reinhold Fahrenheit vom Kneiphof moved from Kneiphof (Königsberg) to Danzig and settled there as a merchant in 1650. Father Daniel Fahrenheit married Concordia (widowed name, Runge), daughter of the well-known Danzig business family of Schumann. Daniel Gabriel was the eldest of the five Fahrenheit children who survived childhood (two sons, three daughters).

Upon the accidental early death of his parents, probably caused by consumption of poisonous mushrooms, Gabriel had to take up business training, as a merchant in Amsterdam. However, his interest in natural sciences caused him to take up studies and experimentation in that field, and after travelling around, he settled 1717 in The Hague with the trade of glassblowing, making barometer, altimeter and thermometer. From 1718 onwards, he gave lectures in chemistry in Amsterdam, and became a member of the Royal Society in 1724.


Fahrenheit scale

Fahrenheit developed precise thermometers. He filled his first thermometers with alcohol before using mercury, which gave better results.

The coldest temperature attainable under laboratory conditions at that time, using a mixture of water, salt and ice, was defined by him as 0°F (approx. -17,8°C). The body temperature of a healthy horse was defined about 100°F (~37,8°C).

The Fahrenheit scale was widely used in Europe until the switch to the Celsius scale. It is still used for everyday temperature measurements by the general population in the United States and Jamaica.

References

  1. G.D.Fahrenheit / R.-A.F.de Réaumur / A. Celsius by Horst Kant, 1984.

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