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Physicists and astronomers


Fahrenheit, Daniel Gabriel 1686-1736
German-Dutch physicist. Invented the first accurate thermometer. Proposed the Fahrenheit scale of temperature in 1724.

Faraday, Michael 1791-1867
Electromagnetic induction. Faraday's laws of electrochemistry. Developed the first electric motor and dynamo. He not only refused a knighthood but also the Presidency of the Royal Society. Laws of electrolysis. Idea of magnetic lines of force. First to observe the rotation of the plane of polarisation in a magnetic field.

Ferguson, James 1710-1776
A Scots astronomer, painter, mechanician and philosopher. Made an orrery. Wrote a book called "Astronomy Explained Upon Sir Isaac Newton's Principles, and Made Easy to Those Who Have Not Studied Mathematics" which was to become a favourite of Herschel's. It is thought that he learnt much of his basic astronomy from it. Made a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1763. Gave many lectures to help make science popular.

Fermi, Enrico 1901-1954
Developed the first atomic pile in a squash court in Chicago in 1942. First controlled chain reaction. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1938 for discovering new radioactive elements and for his work on slow neutrons.

Fitzgerald, George 1851-1901
Proposed the contraction of an object in its direction of motion – known as the Lorentz-Fitzgerald contraction.

Fizeau, Armand Hippolyte Louis 1819-1896
An amateur French physicist. Measurement of the speed of light using a rotating toothed wheel. Used Newton's rings to measure thermal expansion in 1864. Realised that the motion of a star relative to the Earth affects the position of lines in its spectrum.

Fleming, Sir Ambrose 1849-1945
British physicist. Invented the thermionic valve. First to use the diode valve for radio reception (1904).

Foucault, Jean Bernard Léon 1819-1868
Measurement of the speed of light using a rotating mirror in 1862. Demonstrated the rotation of the Earth using a 20 m long the Foucault pendulum suspended from the roof of the Pantheon in Paris in 1851.

Franklin, Benjamin 1706-1790
American scientist. Lightning conductor. Electricity in a thunderstorm. Kite flying (1752). Introduced idea of positive and negative electricity. Electricity could be produced by friction.

Fraunhofer, Josef von 1787-1826
Born in Germany he was the son of a poor glazier. Identified and explained the absorption lines in the spectrum of the Sun. Theory of diffraction. Invented the diffraction grating by winding a fine wire round two parallel screws.

Fresnel, Augustin Jean 1788-1827
French physicist. One of the founders of the wave theory of light. Bi-prism to measure the wavelength of light. Developed the mathematical theory of diffraction, interference and polarisation.

Frisch, Otto Robert 1904-1979
Austrian physicist. Described the splitting of uranium atoms by neutrons. Proposed the name 'fission' for this process.
© Keith Gibbs 2016