Oliver Heaviside

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Heaviside, Oliver

(hĕv`ēsīd'), 1850–1925, English physicist. He did valuable work in telephony and in the theory of electrical conduction in cables and other areas of electric theory. He suggested (1902) the existence of a layer in the upper atmosphere responsible for altering the path of certain radio waves and thus making possible long-distance transmission of signals. The same conclusion was reached independently by Arthur E. Kennelly; its existence was proven, and it is known both as the Kennelly-Heaviside layer and as the Heaviside layer. See ionosphereionosphere
, series of concentric ionized layers forming part of the upper atmosphere of the earth from around 30 to 50 mi (50 to 80 km) to 250 to 370 mi (400 to 600 km) where it merges with the magnetosphere, the region of the Van Allen radiation belts.
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Heaviside, Oliver


Born May 18, 1850, in London; died Feb. 3, 1925, in Torquay. English physicist. Fellow of the Royal Society of London (1891).

After completing school in 1866, Heaviside worked for a telegraph company in Newcastle upon Tyne. In 1874, progressive deafness forced him to stop working, and he engaged in independent studies of the theory of electricity. He investigated the propagation of electromagnetic waves in single-wire and two-wire lines and, independently of J. H. Poynting and N. A. Umov, introduced the vector of the flux density of electromagnetic energy. He also developed a theory of long-distance signal transmission. In 1902, independently of A. E. Kennelly, Heaviside showed that an ionized atmospheric layer exists which reflects electromagnetic waves; this layer is known as the Kennelly-Heaviside layer, or the E layer.

Heaviside’s works on the theory of electricity (1892) contained ideas whose importance was not appreciated until much later. For example, Heaviside showed that the mass of a charged particle varies with velocity. Heaviside was the first to develop operational calculus, which later became widely used in physics and other sciences.


Electrical Papers, vols. 1–2. London–New York, 1892.
Electromagnetic Theory: The Complete and Unabridged Edition, vols. 1–3. London [1951].


Lee, G. Oliver Heaviside. London–New York–Toronto [1947].
The Heaviside Centenary Volume. London, 1950.