Kirchhoff using a spectroscope, 1860s

Kirchhoff using a spectroscope, 1860s

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Credit: EMILIO SEGRE VISUAL ARCHIVES/AMERICAN INSTITUTE OF PHYSICS/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

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Caption: Kirchhoff using a spectroscope. 19th-century illustration of German physicist Gustav Kirchhoff (1824-1887) using a spectroscope to identify chemical elements by the characteristic spectrum of radiation they emit when heated. Such spectra are used to identify chemical elements, both in the laboratory and in distant stars. Kirchhoff and Bunsen used this sort of apparatus to analyse the spectrum of elements such as sodium, potassium, lithium, barium, strontium and calcium. They also discovered new elements, such as rubidium (1861) and caesium (1860). This is a Simms spectroscope. Artwork from 'The Forces of Nature' (third edition, 1877).

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