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

I What was the value of the permeability constant in 1865?

  1. Oct 27, 2018 #1
    What is the value of the permeability constant in 1865, the time when Maxwell's theory was first published? What was the experimental method used to determine the constant. Who did the experiment.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 27, 2018 #2


    Staff: Mentor

  4. Oct 27, 2018 #3
    Nothing there.

    It is said Maxwell discovered that the speed of radiation v = 1/√(μ₀ ε₀) and v happened to be near the known speed of light then. So in 1865, there should be an accepted value of μ₀. But google gives no clue at all. Why so difficult to trace history of permeability constant?
  5. Oct 27, 2018 #4


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Maxwell didn't actually use the equation ##v = \frac 1 {\sqrt {\mu_0 \epsilon_0}}##. That equation uses SI units which hadn't been codified in Maxwell's day. He used a different set of units, and indeed different names for many electromagnetic quantities. The equation we use nowadays should be considered a modern "translation" or "interpretation" of Maxwell's calculations. For what it's worth, you can see what Maxwell actually wrote when he calculated the theoretical speed of his electromagnetic waves:

  6. Oct 27, 2018 #5
    OK. The original derivation of radiation speed is too difficult for me. I don't really know how our modern EM speed derivation may be related or compared to Maxwell's original.
  7. Oct 27, 2018 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    In the cgs system in use at that time (and also when I was at school) there are two sets of units, emu and esu. The emu is current (charge x velocity) necessary to produce a force of 1 dyne between two conductors, and the esu is the charge necessary to produce a force of 1 dyne between two charges, all spaced 1cm. For a vacuum, permeability and permittivity were defined as 1. Maxwell noticed that the ratio of these two units was about equal to 3 x 10^8 m/s, which is c.
  8. Oct 27, 2018 #7
    Great! Very helpful. Though I don't understand it now, this is the hint if I want to investigate further. I do know that the force between currents in conductors is related to the magnetic field and thus to permeability. The other is simply related to permittivity.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?