SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY SHEILA TERRY / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Joseph Black giving a practical demonstration of latent heat to students of Glasgow University in the 1760s. The Scottish chemist and physicist found that as ice is heated, it melts with no immediate rise in temperature, which he explained by introducing the concept of latent heat, the heat absorbed by a substance when it changes state, such as solid to liquid, without a temperature rise. The latent heat theory was one of Black's more important scientific contributions and marks the beginning of thermodynamics. The Scottish inventor James Watt, then a colleague of Black, was developing improvements to the steam engine, and his separate condenser design essentially recognised the phenomenon of latent heat. Black also applied this term to the vaporisation of liquids such as water becoming steam, and defined the specific heat of substances. In chemistry he discovered carbon dioxide.
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