Date: 03 Sep 2014

Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert

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BornKönigsberg (Kaliningrad, Russia), 12 March 1824

DiedBerlin, Germany, 17 October 1887

Kirchhoff, Gustav Robert. Courtesy of History of Science Collections, University of Oklahoma Libraries

Gustav Kirchhoff founded spectral analysis (with Robert Bunsen) and discovered fundamental properties of the absorption and emission of electromagnetic radiation. His father, a government law councillor, was devoted to the Prussian state and encouraged his sons to similarly serve the state to the best of their abilities. Kirchhoff enrolled at the University of Königsberg, where he studied mathematical physics under Carl Gustav Jacob Jacobi (1804–1851) and Franz Ernst Neumann (1798–1895). After graduation in 1847 and a short scientific visit to Paris, he held an unsalaried lectureship in Berlin. In 1850, Kirchhoff was appointed extraordinary professor of physics at Breslau, where the arrival of Bunsen the following year inaugurated an immensely fruitful collaboration that would revolutionize astronomy ...