Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

School Physicists

  1. Aug 5, 2003 #1
    Hi all,
    I thought it might be interesting to make a list of physicists/astronomers/natural philosophers/inventors which are mentioned (or should be mentioned) in physics classes at school:

    - Archimedes
    - Aristoteles
    - Pythagoras
    - Aristosthenes
    - Demokrit
    - Copernicus
    - Galilei
    - Guericke
    - Torricelli
    - Pascal
    - Brahe
    - Kepler
    - Newton
    - Bessel
    - R/omer
    - Foucault
    - Franklin
    - Volta
    - Galvani
    - Ampere
    - Ohm
    - Watt
    - Joule
    - Gauss
    - Tesla
    - Morse
    - Faraday
    - Maxwell
    - Lorentz
    - Hertz
    - Thompson
    - Bell
    - Edison
    - Braun
    - Siemens
    - Einstein
    - Planck
    - Bohr
    - Heisenberg
    - Becquerel
    - Curie
    - Hahn
    - Fermi

    Any comments?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2003 #2
    Good list but what about Feynman? You can't discuss Feynman diagrams without mentioning Feynman! :smile:
  4. Aug 6, 2003 #3
    Don't forget

    Mikhail Vasilyevich Lomonosov (1711-1765).

    In the heyday of soviet propaganda, Lomonosov was declared to have beat everybody else in discovering all the socially and economically useful things of physics, from optics through statistical mechanics and electromagnetics to radioactivity. He beat everybody. All glory to the soviet people!

    There actually is a small basis in fact to this--a small basis.

    In mathematics, it's

    Mikhail Vasilievich Ostrogradsky (1801--1862).

    He is another hero that discovered all the socially and economically useful things of mathematics: multivariate calculus, partial differential equations, mathematical physics. He was indeed a fine mathematician.

    He discovered everything, that is, except non-euclidean geometry. That subject was all discovered by

    Nikolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky (1793-1856).

    But they never said why they considered non-euclidean geometry to be socially and economically useful.

    (No, General relativity was not an acceptable answer--too bourgeois and idealistic!)
  5. Aug 6, 2003 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member


  6. Aug 6, 2003 #5
    What about Euclid?
  7. Aug 6, 2003 #6
    Thanks. You did discuss Feynman diagrams at school? Lucky you!

    Are you serious? All I know is these guys must have lived well before the Soviet Union was founded, which was in 1917.

    Euler: yes definitely. You need exp() in many high school physics problems.
    Bernoulli brothers: I first heard about them in college. First, in Calculus (Bernoulli's approximation) and later in hydrodynamics.

    Euclid: yes, but only in math. Euclid's algorithm, for instance.
  8. Aug 7, 2003 #7
    I am semi-silly. But the idea was priorities of discovery, and those claims covered earlier times. Concurrently, the soviet media were proclaiming priorities by old russian inventors also.

    Lomonosov did write something on kinetic theory long before Maxwell and the others; not a complete exposition, but a trial balloon.
  9. Aug 7, 2003 #8
    but seriously, I have heard about something called a Lobachevsky metric, but only at college. But forgotten all about it :frown:. Can you refresh my mind?
    And yes, Lomonosov I have heard about also (@ college). IIRC, some axioms concerning statistical mechanics. Or am I completely wrong here?
  10. Aug 7, 2003 #9
    The only thing I remembered is Felix Klein's model for hyperbolic geometry.

    Let the space consist of the interior disk of a euclidean circle. The lines of this space are just euclidean line segments through the space. Each line determines two points of intersection with the circle, but remember, these are NOT part of the space being described, just reference ideal points outside the space. It is easy to draw multiple intersecting parallel's to any given line in this space. So the geometry is lobachevskian (hyperbolic). For any two points in this space, exactly one line contains both.

    So, let (px,py) represent one point and let (qx,qy) represent the second point. Draw the line through them and let it intersect the reference circle. Let (ox,oy) represent the ideal point nearest (px,py) and let (rx,ry) represent the ideal point nearest (qx,qy). Use the following formula to make a metric.



    ┬Żln{(|(px,py) - (ox,oy)| * |(rx,ry) - (qx,qy)|)

    / (|(qx,qy) - (ox,oy)| * |(rx,ry) - (px,py)|)}

    It isn't too hard to see from the formula that the distance is 0 if the p point and the q point are the same. Also, if you vary a point on a line so as to approach the circle, the distance is going to increase indefinitely, because a term in the numerator goes to |0|, all the terms in the denominator are strictly positive-valued, and so it's ln value increases indefinitely. Distances in this space are not bounded. I guess the symmetry requirement for the d function is pretty obvious, from the symmetries in the defining formula. No, I won't try to show the transitivity requirement.

    I had to look this up. Here is the best link with a cartoon for this situation that I could find.

    http://www.math.uncc.edu/~droyster/math3181/notes/hyprgeom/node57.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 1, 2017
  11. Aug 7, 2003 #10
    Yes, but briefly. I still don't understand it completely :smile:

    Just a few more for the list:

    Riemann: Riemann (noneuclidean geometry) and for his contributions to integration (Riemann sums)

    Taylor and Maclaurin: Series are very important in physics (I had to use several during my test on Relativity).

    Agnesi: Her work in vector-valued functions is important to physics.
  12. Aug 8, 2003 #11
    MVL thought the cause of heat in gases,
    Arises from the fact of tiny masses,
    All equal in their weight,
    So the prospect must be great,
    To figure pressure-vol-temp, it surpasses.

    {pee-yoo! I made that up!} :smile:
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2003
  13. Aug 8, 2003 #12
    seems you did a lot of advanced physics at school - lucky you, again.

    thanks for your example of a lobachevskian metric. Hey, why not start a 'physics Limericks' topic!
  14. Aug 8, 2003 #13
    Lol, actually...no...

    Most advanced mathematics we used were gradients (Vector Calculus) but that doesn't mean you can't read up on advanced physics on your own time :smile:
  15. Aug 8, 2003 #14
    Oh, I forgot one: Liebniz!

    Actual exerpt from Physics class:

    Professor: We should use the Liebniz notation for derivatives. It is very very good notation.

    <silence in the class. silently agreeing and waiting for furthur instruction>

    Professor: What's a matter? Haven't you guys ever heard of the Liebniz notation?!?

    <before anybody can respond>

    Professor: You all are looking at me as if you have the faintest foggiest idea what I'm talking about!
  16. Aug 8, 2003 #15
    Very true, I think. There was some guy at school who told me about quarks, which left me stunned. Plus when I entered college, some guy said 'ever heard of the uncertainty principle?' which left me stunned again, so I knew I better should get some books...
    Yeah, wasn't he talking about using df/dx instead of stupid f'(x)...? Integration could be so much easier from the start if students were already used to Leibnitz notation...BTW when I learned calculus, nobody told me who invented derivations. No mention of Newton or Leibnitz. The 1st name that popped up was Riemann, only when doing integration...
  17. Aug 9, 2003 #16
    Yes, I think we've all been there.

    I would love to tell you that I grew up in a Physics lab but honestly, I first heard about the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle my freshman year of college.

    I didn't take my first physics course till a year after I started. IN the meantime, I was so impatient to start that I would hang out in the library reading up on physics, astronomy and mathematics.

    Yes. In my worthless opinion, I think Liebniz's notation is far superior to Newton's notation. It may take a longer time to write out but it's easy to understand and so there will be less confusion.

    Not only that, but it looks more complicated than Newton's notation and so you can impress the ladies
  18. Aug 10, 2003 #17

    This is getting a bit off topic, but I think it's worth it.

    I think, at school I was (like many) never educated to really think scientifically. Know why I think so? Because of chemistry.
    Well they tell you all about 'electron shells' in an atom, and how many electrons these can hold, and so on. And the teacher says "Atoms are most stable when they have a full outer shell", and they explain the covalent bond by saying "This electron goes around both nuclei, thus holding them together", and then, worse, orbitals to explain e.g. why H2O looks like it does...
    Those days I knew a lot about astronomy (e.g. Kepler laws), but I never ever put up my hand to ask "How can particles behave like this?". I was practically living in the middle ages...
  19. Aug 10, 2003 #18
    I think that's what undergraduate years are for: the hone your style of thinking.

    Chemistry makes everybody question how they are being educated. It's far from a useless subject, but you always ask "why must I learn it?"

    Although I didn't grow up in a Physics lab, I did read as often as I could and I remembered reading about electron orbitals. In middle school, I remember the teachers talking about orbitals and such and she drew a picture of it. After class, I walked up to her and go, "but I thought atoms didn't have well defined shells. I thought it was more like a "cloud" or something." I didn't mention this in class, but out of respect, I went after class. She looked at me and started chewing me out for undermining her authority.

    So much for my "scientific" thinking.
  20. Aug 10, 2003 #19
    Underminig her authority . "Hey kid! Fear is stronger than curiosity. Be a good boy: stay ignorant!". Disgusting...
    Sometimes I think that most people who have heard about science only at school practically still live in the middle-ages (when it comes to an understanding of nature...)
  21. Aug 11, 2003 #20
    Yep, I know teachers who are like that. Some of them are really arrogant and want to appear "smarter" than the students.

    To get back on topic: Josiah Williard Gibbs. What's vector analysis without Gibbs?
  22. Aug 12, 2003 #21
    Yes. Plus, I left out some obvious ones:

    - Hooke
    - Kelvin
    - Huyghens
  23. Aug 12, 2003 #22


    User Avatar

    Perhaps Dirac and Schrodinger ought be in there somewhere?
  24. Aug 13, 2003 #23
    Don't forget Pauli and De Broglie
  25. Aug 20, 2003 #24
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook