How Does the Thermometer Work?

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  • Topic: Temperature, Absolute zero, Celsius
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  • Published : March 23, 2013
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How Does the Thermometer Work?

A thermometer is a device that measures the temperature of things. The name is made up of two smaller words: "Thermo" means heat and "meter" means to measure. You can use a thermometer to tell the temperature outside or inside your house, inside your oven, even the temperature of your body if you're sick.

One of the earliest inventors of a thermometer was probably Galileo. We know him more for his studies about the solar system and his "revolutionary" theory (back then) that the earth and planets rotated around the sun. Galileo is said to have used a device called a "thermoscope" around 1600 - that's 400 years ago!!

The thermometers we use today are different than the ones Galileo may have used. There is usually a bulb at the base of the thermometer with a long glass tube stretching out the top. Early thermometers used water, but because water freezes there was no way to measure temperatures less than the freezing point of water. So, alcohol, which freezes at temperature below the point where water freezes, was used.

The red colored or silver line in the middle of the thermometer moves up and down depending on the temperature. The thermometer measures temperatures in Fahrenheit, Celsius and another scale called Kelvin. Fahrenheit is used mostly in the United States, and most of the rest of the world uses Celsius. Kelvin is used by scientists.

Fahrenheit is named after the German physicist Gabriel D. Fahrenheit who developed his scale in 1724. Ice freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (F for short), and water boils at 212 degrees F. He arbitrarily decided that the difference between the freezing point and boiling point of water should be 180 degrees.

The Celsius scale is named after Anders Celsius. The Celsius scale used to be called the "centigrade" scale. Centigrade means "divided into 100 degrees." Anders Celsius developed his scale in 1742. He started with the freezing point of water and said that was 0...
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