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Celsius, Anders

Celsius, Anders

(b. Uppsala, Sweden, 27 November 1701; d. Uppsala, 25 April 1744),

astronomy.

Celsius’ father was professor of astronomy at the University of Uppsala, and his son early followed in his footsteps. He studied astronomy, mathematics, and experimental physics; and in 1725 he became secretary of the Uppsala Scientific Society. After teaching at the university for several years as professor of mathematics, in April 1730 Celsius was appointed professor of astronomy. From 1732 to 1736 he traveled extensively in other countries to broaden his knowledge. He visited astronomers and observatories in Berlin and Nuremburg; in the latter city he published a collection of observations of the aurora borealis (1733). He went on to Italy, and then to Paris; there he made the acquaintance of Maupertuis, who was preparing an expedition to measure a meridian in the north in hopes of verifying the Newtonian theory that the earth is flattened at the poles and disproving the contrary Cartesian view, Celsius joined the Maupertuis expedition, and in 1735 he went to London to secure needed instruments. The next year he followed the French expedition to Torneå, in northern Sweden (now Tornio, Finland). During 1736–1737, in his capacity as astronomer, he helped with the planned meridian measurement; and Newton’s theory was confirmed. He was active in the controversy that later developed over what Maupertuis had done and fired a literary broadside, De observationibus pro figura telluris determinanda (1738), against Jacques Cassini.

On his subsequent return to Uppsala, Celsius breathed new life into the teaching of astronomy at the university. In 1742 he moved into the newly completed astronomical observatory, which had been under construction for several years and was the first modern installation of its kind in Sweden.

Although he died young, Celsius lived long enough to make important contributions in several fields. As an astronomer he was primarily an observer. Using a purely photometric method (filtering light through glass plates), he attempted to determine the magnitude of the stars in Aries (De constellatione Arietis, 1740). During the lively debate over the falling level of the Baltic, he wrote a paper on the subject based on exact experiments, “Anmärkning om vatnets fö -minskande” (1743). Today Celsius is best known in connection with a thermometer scale. Although a 100-degree scale had been in use earlier, it was Celsius’s famous observations concerning the two “constant degrees” on a thermometer, “Observationer om twänne beständiga grader på en thermometer” (1742), that led to its general acceptance. As the “constant degrees,” or fixed points, he chose the freezing and boiling points of water, calling the boiling point zero and the freezing point 100. The present system, with the scale reversed, introduced in 1747 at the Uppsala observatory, was long known as the “Swedish thermometer.” Not until around 1800 did people start referring to it as the Celsius thermometer.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Celsius’ most important writings are De observationibus pro figura telluris determinanda (Uppsala, 1738): De constellatione Arietis (Stockholm, 1740): “Observationer om twänne beständiga grader pa en thermometer,” in Kungliga Svenska vetenskapmkademiens handlingar (1742). 121–180; and “Anmärkning om vatnets förminskande.” ibid. (1743), 33–50. “Observationer…” may be found in German as no. 57 in Ostwald’s Klassiker der exakten Wissensehaften (Leipzig, 1894). Many of his minor writings were published as academic treatises or appeared in Kungliga Svenska vetenskapsakademiens handlingar. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, and other journals. His personal papers, including letters from Maupertuis, J. N. Delisle, and Le Monnier, are at the Uppsala University library.

There is a comprehensive biography by N. V. E, Nordenmark, Anders Celsius (Uppsala, 1936), and a shorter version by the same author in S. Lindroth, ed., Swedish Men of Science, 1650–1950 (Stockholm, 1952).

Sten Lindroth

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Celsius, Anders

Anders Celsius

Born: November 27, 1701
Uppsala, Sweden
Died: April 25, 1744
Uppsala, Sweden

Swedish astronomer

Anders Celsius was an astronomer who invented the Celsius temperature scale, the most widely used in the world today. Celsius was primarily an astronomer and did not even start working on his temperature scale until shortly before his death.

Early life and career

Anders Celsius was born in Uppsala, Sweden, on November 27, 1701. The son of an astronomy professor and the grandson of a mathematician and an astronomer, Celsius chose a life in the world of academics. He studied at the University of Uppsala, where his father taught, and in 1730 he, too, was awarded a professorship there. His earliest research concerned the aurora borealis (also known as the northern lights, which are an unusually spectacular illumination of the night sky), and he was the first to suggest a connection between these lights and changes in the Earth's magnetic field.

Celsius traveled for several years, including an expedition into Lapland with French astronomer Pierre-Louis Maupertuis (16981759) to measure a degree of longitude (an angular distance of the earth). Upon his return he was appointed steward (manager) to Uppsala's new observatory, a building designated for studying the universe. He began a series of observations using colored glass plates to record the magnitude (size) of certain stars. This was the first attempt to measure the intensity of starlight with a tool other than the human eye.

The Celsius scale

The work for which Celsius is best known is his creation of a hundred-point scale for temperature; although he was not the first to have done so, as several hundred-point scales existed at that time. What set Celsius's scale apart from all of the others was his decision to assign the freezing and boiling points of water as the constant temperatures at either end of the scale.

When Celsius introduced his scale in 1747, it was the reverse of today's scale, with the boiling point of water being zero degrees and the freezing point being one hundred degrees. A year later the two constants were switched, creating the temperature scale used today. Celsius originally called his scale centigrade (from the Latin for "hundred steps"). For years it was simply referred to as the Swedish thermometer. In 1948 most of the world adopted the hundred-point scale, calling it the Celsius scale.

On April 25, 1744, at the age of forty-two, Anders Celsius died of tuberculosis, a terrible disease that attacks the lungs, bones, and other body parts. He left behind many dissertations (long writings) on astronomy, as well as a well-received book entitled, "Arithmetics for the Swedish Youth," published in 1741. But for all of his accomplishments in his life's work of astronomy, the name Celsius is forever tied to an instrument used every day throughout most of the world.

For More Information

Bruno, Leonard C. Math and Mathematicians. Vol. 3. Detroit: Gale, 2002.

Shimek, William J. The Celsius Thermometer. Minneapolis, MN: Lerner, 1975.

World of Invention, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 1999.

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Anders Celsius

Anders Celsius

Anders Celcius (1701-1744) was an astronomer who invented the celcius temperature scale the most widely used in the world today.

Celsius is a familiar name to much of the world since it represents the most widely accepted scale of temperature. It is ironic that its inventor, Anders Celsius, the inventor of the Celsius scale, was primarily an astronomer and did not conceive of his temperature scale until shortly before his death.

The son of an astronomy professor and grandson of a mathematician, Celsius chose a life within academia. He studied at the University of Uppsala where his father taught, and in 1730 he, too, was given a professorship there. His earliest research concerned the aurora borealis (northern lights), and he was the first to suggest a connection between these lights and changes in the earth's magnetic field.

Celsius traveled for several years, including an expedition into Lapland with French astronomer Pierre-Louis Maupertuis (1698-1759) to measure a degree of longitude. Upon his return he was appointed steward to Uppsala's new observatory. He began a series of observations using colored glass plates to record the magnitude of certain stars. This constituted the first attempt to measure the intensity of starlight with a tool other than the human eye.

The work for which Celsius is best known is his creation of a hundred-point scale for temperature, although he was not the first to have done so since several hundred-point scales existed at that time. Celsius' unique and lasting contribution was the modification of assigning the freezing and boiling points of water as the constant temperatures at either end of the scale. When the Celsius scale debuted in 1747 it was the reverse of today's scale, with zero degrees being the boiling point of water and one hundred degrees being the freezing point. A year later the two constants were exchanged, creating the temperature scale we use today. Celsius originally called his scale centigrade (from the Latin for "hundred steps"), and for years it was simply referred to as the Swedish thermometer. In 1948 most of the world adopted the hundred-point scale, calling it the Celsius scale. □

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Celsius, Anders

Anders Celsius (än´dərs sĕl´sēŭs), 1701–44, Swedish astronomer. While professor of astronomy at the Univ. of Uppsala (1730–44), he traveled through Germany, France, and Italy, visiting great observatories. At Nuremberg in 1733 he published a collection of 316 observations of the aurora borealis made by himself and others. While in Paris he was instrumental in bringing about an expedition (of which he became a member) organized by the French Academy for the measurement of an arc of the meridian in Lapland (1736). He supervised the building of an observatory at Uppsala in 1740 and became its director; while there he pioneered in the measuring of the magnitude of stars, using photometric methods. In 1742 he invented the centigrade (or Celsius) thermometer. His works include De observationibus pro figura telluris determinanda (1738).

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Celsius, Anders

Celsius, Anders (1701–44), Swedish astronomer, best known for his temperature scale. He was professor of astronomy at Uppsala, and in 1742 he advocated a metric temperature scale with 100° as the freezing point of water and 0° as the boiling point; however, the thermometer which was actually introduced at the Uppsala Observatory had its scale reversed.

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