The correct answer to the question in
the headline is: their parents.
Let's start with a brief science
lesson: A volt is the unit of electromotive force that will cause
one ampere to flow through a resistance of one ohm.
In one of last year's stories in
this column, we discussed four inventors whose names are synonymous
with their weather-related inventions: Fahrenheit, Celsius, Doppler
and Richter. Most people had no idea that there actually were people
for whom the inventions were named. ["Who
were Fahrenheit, Celsius, Doppler and Richter?"]
So who exactly are the inventors
behind such electrical measurements as the volt, the watt, the amp
and the ohm?
Each inventor was born in Europe in
the 1700s, and even though they probably never met each other while
they were alive, they remain linked together forever in history.
Alessandro Volta (1745-1827) was
born in Como, Italy; James Watt (1736-1819) was born in Greenock,
Scotland; Andre-Marie Ampere (1775-1836) was born in Paris, France;
and Georg Ohm (1789-1854) was born in Erlangen, Germany.
Count Alessandro Volta was a
physicist who developed the forerunner of the electric battery,
called a voltaic pile back then, which produced a steady stream of
electricity. As a result of his work, Napoleon made him a count in
1801 and, of course, the volt was named after Alessandro Volta.
James Watt was a mechanical engineer
who made mathematical instruments. He married his cousin, which
tends to happen when you go to family reunions in order to meet
women. They had six children together, but there's no report of any
of the kids ever referring to him as "Uncle Dad."
This is the same James Watt for whom
the steam engine is named. Contrary to popular belief, Watt did not
invent the steam engine. He made improvements to it, making it more
efficient than the original model invented by Thomas Newcomem.
[to top of second column
in this article]
Andre-Marie Ampere is credited as one of the
main discoverers of electromagnetism, also known as electrodynamics. The
Paris Conference of Electricians named the unit of electric current after
Ampere; it is usually referred to by its shortened name of amp.
Ampere was an expert in mathematics,
chemistry and physics, but his personal life was a series of one tragedy
after another. Soon after his father was elected justice of the peace in
Lyon, France, Ampere's sister died. Then his father was beheaded, sending
Ampere into a major period of depression. This lasted about 18 months,
until he met and fell in love with his future wife, Julie. Less than four
years into their marriage, Julie became ill and died soon after giving
birth to their son. Ampere remarried in 1806, but this marriage lasted
less than a year. At least he didn't marry his cousin like James Watt did.
Neither of Georg Simon Ohm's parents
were formally educated, yet his locksmith father had educated
himself and gave Georg and his brother each an excellent education.
He self-taught them at home in their early years and then sent them
to school, where Georg went on to become a physicist.
The ohm is a unit of electrical
resistance, and the symbol for an ohm is the Greek letter omega.
Georg Ohm defined the fundamental relationship between voltage,
current and resistance. The result became known as Ohm's Law.
Georg Olm also had the unit of
electrical resistance named after him, putting him in the same elite
company as Volta, Watts and Ampere.
Again, a volt is the unit of
electromotive force that will cause one ampere to flow through a
resistance of one ohm.
I have no idea. Science was not one
of my best subjects.
Paul Niemann is the author of Invention Mysteries. He can be
reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© Copyright Paul Niemann 2005