Hans Christian Oersted, Danish physicist

Hans Christian Oersted, Danish physicist

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Credit: GARY BROWN/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Caption: Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851), Danish physicist, holding an enlarged compass needle. Oersted studied pharmaceutics and the physical sciences in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he later became professor of physics in 1806. In 1820 he showed that the needle of a magnetic compass is deflected when electric current passes through a wire close by. His experiment is seen as the foundation of the study of electromagnetism. His discovery (published in 1820) resulted in much study of the phenomenon. Until then, Coulomb's opinion that electricity and magnetism were independent forces had been widely accepted. A magnetic field unit is named after Oersted.

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