Gustav Kirchhoff was a German physicist who contributed to studies in electricity, radiation, optics, and
spectroscopy. While still in college, he formulated two laws, thereafter known as Kirchhoff’s Laws, that
explained the relation between incoming and outgoing forces in a completed circuit. Following his
graduation, he assumed a position at the University of Heidelberg, where he worked with Robert Bunsen.
With Bunsen’s help, he discovered two new elements, cesium and rubidium, and he created the three laws of
spectroscopy. He was awarded the prestigious Rumford Medal for his research in 1862. Kirchhoff also
conducted studies in thermal radiation—electromagnetic radiation emitted from a material and affected by
that material’s temperature (i.e. the glow of a red-hot iron)—and he coined the term “black body radiation”
to describe an object that absorbs all radiation coming toward it. Kirchhoff passed away in 1887 and was
buried in the St Matthäus Kirchhof Cemetery in Schoneberg, Berlin, near the burial site of the Brothers Grimm.
Key events during the life of Gustav Kirchhoff:
||Born in East Prussia
||Proposed two curcuit laws (Kirchhoff's Laws)
||Graduated from the University of Konigsberg
||Came to University of Heidelberg to work with Robert Bunsen
||Proposed law of thermal radiation
||Discovered caesium and rubidium with Bunsen
||Was Awarded the Rumford Medal for his research
||Coined the term 'black body radiation'
||Nephew of Napoleon, elected emperor of France after revolution of 1848. Deposed after disastrous Franco-Prussian War.
|Kaiser William I
||First Kaiser of a United German Empire. With Bismarck as Chancellor, defeated Austria and France.
||Renowned scientist in bacteriology. Helped develop germ theory of disease and pasteurization process.