Biography of Georg Simon Ohm

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  • Topic: Ohm's law, Georg Ohm, Bavaria
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Georg Simon Ohm (16 March 1787 – 6 July 1854) was a Bavarian (German) physicist and mathematician. As a high school teacher, Ohm began his research with the new electrochemical cell, invented by Italian scientist Alessandro Volta. Using equipment of his own creation, Ohm found that there is a direct proportionality between the potential difference (voltage) applied across a conductor and the resultant electric current. This relationship is known as Ohm's law. Ohm died in Munich in 1854, and is buried in the Alter Südfriedhof.

Early years
Georg Simon Ohm was born into a Protestant family in Erlangen, Bavaria, (then a part of the Holy Roman Empire)son to Johann Wolfgang Ohm, a locksmith and Maria Elizabeth Beck, the daughter of a tailor in Erlangen. Although his parents had not been formally educated, Ohm's father was a respected man who had educated himself to a high level and was able to give his sons an excellent education through his own teachings. Of the seven children of the family only three survived to adulthood: Georg Simon, his younger brother Martin, who later became a well-known mathematician, and his sister Elizabeth Barbara. His mother died when he was ten. From early childhood, Georg and Martin were taught by their father who brought them to a high standard in mathematics, physics, chemistry and philosophy. Georg Simon attended Erlangen Gymnasium from age eleven to fifteen where he received little in the area of scientific training, which sharply contrasted with the inspired instruction that both Georg and Martin received from their father. This characteristic made the Ohms bear a resemblance to the Bernoulli family, as noted by Karl Christian von Langsdorf, a professor at the University of Erlangen.

Life in university
Georg Ohm's father, concerned that his son was wasting his educational opportunity, sent Ohm to Switzerland. There in September 1806 Ohm accepted a position as a mathematics teacher in a school in Gottstadt bei Nydau. Karl Christian von Langsdorf left the University of Erlangen in early 1809 to take up a post in the University of Heidelberg and Ohm would have liked to have gone with him to Heidelberg to restart his mathematical studies. Langsdorf, however, advised Ohm to continue with his studies of mathematics on his own, advising Ohm to read the works of Euler, Laplace and Lacroix. Rather reluctantly Ohm took his advice but he left his teaching post in Gottstadt bei Nydau in March 1809 to become a private tutor in Neuchâtel. For two years he carried out his duties as a tutor while he followed Langsdorf's advice and continued his private study of mathematics. Then in April 1811 he returned to the University of Erlangen. His private studies had stood him in good stead for he received a doctorate from Erlangen on 25 October 1811 and immediately joined the staff as a mathematics lecturer. After three semesters Ohm gave up his university post. He could not see how he could attain a better status at Erlangen as prospects there were poor while he essentially lived in poverty in the lecturing post. The Bavarian government offered him a post as a teacher of mathematics and physics at a poor quality school in Bamberg and he took up the post there in January 1813. This was not the successful career envisaged by Ohm and he decided that he would have to show that he was worth much more than a teacher in a poor school. He worked on writing an elementary book on the teaching of geometry while remaining desperately unhappy in his job. After Ohm had endured the school for three years it was closed down in February 1816. The Bavarian government then sent him to an overcrowded school in Bamberg to help out with the mathematics teaching. On 11 September 1817 Ohm received an offer of the post of teacher of mathematics and physics at the Jesuit Gymnasium of Cologne. This was a better school than any that Ohm had taught in previously and it had a well equipped physics...
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