Oersted, Hans Christian

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Oersted or Ørsted, Hans Christian

(häns krĭs`tyän ör`stĭth), 1777–1851, Danish physicist and chemist. He was professor at Copenhagen from 1806. His discovery (1819) that a magnetic needle is deflected at right angles to a conductor carrying an electric current established a relationship between magnetism and electricity and initiated the study of electromagnetism. In 1825 his attempt to isolate aluminum succeeded in producing an impure form of the metal. The unit of magnetic field strength is named for him.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Oersted, Hans Christian


Born Aug. 14, 1777, in Rudkøbing, on the island of Langeland; died Mar. 9, 1851, in Copenhagen. Danish physicist.

Oersted graduated from the University of Copenhagen in 1797. In 1800 he was an assistant at the university, and beginning in 1806 a professor. From 1815 he was perpetual secretary of the Danish Royal Society of Sciences. At the same time, from 1829 he was director of the Polytechnic Institute, which he had founded in Copenhagen. He was also director of the Society for the Promotion of Natural Science, which he had also founded (1824).

Oersted’s principal works were devoted to physics, chemistry, and philosophy. His most important scientific achievement was the establishment of a relationship between electrical and magnetic phenomena in experiments on the deflection of a magnetic needle by current flowing in a conductor. The report on the experiments, published in 1820, prompted considerable research, which culminated in the development of electrodynamics and electrical engineering. Oersted also studied the compressibility of fluids, using the piezometer that he had invented (1822), and he was the first to obtain relatively pure aluminum (1825).

Oersted was an honorary member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Sciences (from 1830).


Experimenta circa affectum conflictus electrici in acum magneticam. Copenhagen, 1820. (Russian translation in A.-M. Ampere, Elektrodinamika, Moscow, 1954, pp. 433–39).
“Précis d’une série d’expériences sur le diamagnétisme.” Journal für Chemie und Physik, 1848.
Gesammelte Schriften, vo\s. 1–6. Leipzig, 1850–51.


Nielsen, J. “Gans Ersted.” Fizika v shkole, 1939, no. 4, pp. 11–16.
Kamenetskii, M. O. “Gans Khristian Ersted.” Nauka i tekhnika, 1937, no. 18.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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