The Info List - Gustav Kirchhoff

Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (German: [ˈkɪʁchɔf]; 12 March 1824 – 17 October 1887) was a German physicist who contributed to the fundamental understanding of electrical circuits, spectroscopy, and the emission of black-body radiation by heated objects. He coined the term black-body radiation in 1862, and at least two different sets of concepts are named "Kirchhoff's laws" after him. The Bunsen–Kirchhoff Award
Bunsen–Kirchhoff Award
for spectroscopy is named after him and his colleague, Robert Bunsen.


1 Life and work 2 Kirchhoff's circuit laws 3 Kirchhoff's three laws of spectroscopy 4 Kirchhoff's law of thermochemistry 5 See also 6 Notes 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links

Life and work[edit] Gustav Kirchhoff
Gustav Kirchhoff
was born in Königsberg, Prussia, the son of Friedrich Kirchhoff, a lawyer, and Johanna Henriette Wittke. His family were Lutherans
in the Evangelical Church of Prussia. He graduated from the Albertus University of Königsberg
in 1847 where he attended the mathematico-physical seminar directed by Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi,[1] Franz Ernst Neumann
Franz Ernst Neumann
and Friedrich Julius Richelot. In the same year, he moved to Berlin, where he stayed until he received a professorship at Breslau. Later, in 1857, He married Clara Richelot, the daughter of his mathematics professor Richelot. The couple had five children. Clara died in 1869. He married Luise Brömmel in 1872.[2]

Gustav Kirchhoff
Gustav Kirchhoff
(left) and Robert Bunsen
Robert Bunsen

Kirchhoff formulated his circuit laws, which are now ubiquitous in electrical engineering, in 1845, while still a student. He completed this study as a seminar exercise; it later became his doctoral dissertation. In 1857 he calculated that an electric signal in a resistanceless wire travels along the wire at the speed of light.[3][4] He proposed his law of thermal radiation in 1859, and gave a proof in 1861. He was called to the University of Heidelberg
University of Heidelberg
in 1854, where he collaborated in spectroscopic work with Robert Bunsen. Together Kirchhoff and Bunsen discovered caesium and rubidium in 1861. At Heidelberg
he ran a mathematico-physical seminar, modelled on Neumann's, with the mathematician Leo Koenigsberger. Among those who attended this seminar were Arthur Schuster
Arthur Schuster
and Sofia Kovalevskaya. In 1875 Kirchhoff accepted the first chair specifically dedicated to theoretical physics at Berlin. In 1862 he was awarded the Rumford Medal
Rumford Medal
for his researches on the fixed lines of the solar spectrum, and on the inversion of the bright lines in the spectra of artificial light. He contributed greatly to the field of spectroscopy by formalizing three laws that describe the spectral composition of light emitted by incandescent objects, building substantially on the discoveries of David Alter and Anders Jonas Ångström (see also: spectrum analysis). He also contributed to optics, carefully solving Maxwell's equations to provide a solid foundation for Huygens' principle
Huygens' principle
(and correct it in the process).[5] In 1884 he became foreign member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.[6]

Tombstone at Alter St.-Matthäus-Kirchhof

Kirchhoff died in 1887, and was buried in the St Matthäus Kirchhof Cemetery in Schöneberg, Berlin
(just a few meters from the graves of the Brothers Grimm). Leopold Kronecker
Leopold Kronecker
is buried in the same cemetery.

Kirchhoff's circuit laws[edit] Further information: Kirchhoff's circuit laws Kirchhoff's first law is that the algebraic sum of currents in a network of conductors meeting at a point (or node) is zero. The second law is that in a closed circuit, the directed sums of the voltages in a closed system is zero. Kirchhoff's three laws of spectroscopy[edit]

Visual depiction of Kirchhof laws or spectroscopy

of Kirchhoff and Bunsen

See also: History of spectroscopy

A solid, liquid, or dense gas excited to emit light will radiate at all wavelengths and thus produce a continuous spectrum. A low-density gas excited to emit light will do so at specific wavelengths and this produces an emission spectrum. (See also: emission spectrum) If light composing a continuous spectrum passes through a cool, low-density gas, the result will be an absorption spectrum.

Kirchhoff did not know about the existence of energy levels in atoms. The existence of discrete spectral lines was later explained by the Bohr model
Bohr model
of the atom, which helped lead to quantum mechanics.

Kirchhoff's law of thermochemistry[edit] Kirchhoff showed in 1858 that, in thermochemistry, the variation of the heat of a chemical reaction is given by the difference in heat capacity between products and reactants: dΔH / dT = ΔCp. Integration of this equation permits the evaluation of the heat of reaction at one temperature from measurements at another temperature.[7][8] See also[edit]

Kirchhoff equations Kirchhoff Institute of Physics Kirchhoff integral theorem Kirchhoff stress tensor Kirchhoff's diffraction formula Kirchhoff's theorem Kirchhoff–Love plate theory List of German inventors and discoverers Spectroscope


^ Hockey, Thomas (2009). "Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert". The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers. Springer Publishing. ISBN 978-0-387-31022-0. Retrieved August 22, 2012.  ^ "Gustav Robert Kirchhoff - Dauerausstellung". Kirchhoff-Institute for Physics. Retrieved 18 Mar 2016. Am 16. August 1857 heiratete er Clara Richelot, die Tochter des Königsberger Mathematikers ... Frau Clara starb schon 1869. Im Dezember 1872 heiratete Kirchhoff Luise Brömmel.  ^ Kirchoff, G. (1857). "On the motion of electricity in wires". Philosophical Magazine. 13: 393–412.  ^ Graneau, P.; Assis, A.K.T. (1994). "Kirchhoff on the motion of electricity in conductors" (PDF). Apeiron. 1 (19): 19–25.  ^ D. Miller, "Huygens’s wave propagation principle corrected", Opt. Lett. 16, 1370–1372 (1991) ^ "G.R. Kirchhoff (1824 - 1887)". Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 22 July 2015.  ^ Laidler K.J. and Meiser J.H., "Physical Chemistry" (Benjamin/Cummings 1982), p.62 ^ Atkins P. and de Paula J., "Atkins' Physical Chemistry" (8th edn, W.H. Freeman 2006), p.56


Warburg, E. (1925). "Zur Erinnerung an Gustav Kirchhoff". Die Naturwissenschaften. 13 (11): 205. Bibcode:1925NW.....13..205W. doi:10.1007/BF01558883.  Stepanov, B. I. (1977). "Gustav Robert Kirchhoff (on the ninetieth anniversary of his death)". Journal of Applied Spectroscopy. 27 (3): 1099. Bibcode:1977JApSp..27.1099S. doi:10.1007/BF00625887.  Everest, A S (1969). "Kirchhoff-Gustav Robert 1824–1887". Physics Education. 4 (6): 341. Bibcode:1969PhyEd...4..341E. doi:10.1088/0031-9120/4/6/304.  Kirchhoff, Gustav (1860). "Ueber die Fraunhoferschen Linien". Monatsberichte der Königliche Preussische Akademie der Wissenschaften zu Berlin: 662–665. ISBN 978-1-113-39933-5.  HathiTrust full text. Partial English translation available in Magie, William Francis, A Source Book in Physics
(1963). Cambridge: Harvard UP. p. 354-360.

Further reading[edit]

Gustav Kirchhoff
Gustav Kirchhoff
at the Mathematics Genealogy Project O'Connor, John J.; Robertson, Edmund F., "Gustav Kirchhoff", MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews . Weisstein, Eric Wolfgang (ed.). "Kirchhoff, Gustav (1824–1887)". ScienceWorld.  Klaus Hentschel: Gustav Robert Kirchhoff und seine Zusammenarbeit mit Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, in: Karl von Meyenn (Hrsg.) Die Grossen Physiker, Munich: Beck, vol. 1 (1997), pp. 416–430, 475-477, 532-534. Klaus Hentschel: Mapping the Spectrum. Techniques of Visual Representation in Research and Teaching, Oxford: OUP, 2002. Kirchhoff's 1857 paper on the speed of electrical signals in a wire Texts on Wikisource:

"Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert". Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.  "Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert". The New Student's Reference Work. 1914.  "Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). 1911.  "Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert". New International Encyclopedia. 1905.  "Sketch of Gustav Robert Kirchhoff". Popular Science Monthly. 33. May 1888.  "Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert". The American Cyclopædia. 1879. 

External links[edit]

Quotations related to Gustav Kirchhoff
Gustav Kirchhoff
at Wikiquote Media related to Gustav Robert Kirchhoff at Wikimedia Commons Open Library

Authority control

WorldCat Identities VIAF: 2587371 LCCN: n85225150 ISNI: 0000 0001 0863 1577 GND: 118723146 SUDOC: 084713879 BNF: cb12554746j (data) MGP: 46968 NLA: 36549509 NDL: 00518411 NKC: mzk2003202349 SN