Hans Christian Oersted (1777-1851), a Danish physicist and educator, is considered the founder of the science of electromagnetism. He took the first steps in explaining the relationship between electricity and magnetism. He was also the first scientist to isolate pure metallic aluminum.
Oersted was born in Rudkobing, Langeland, on August 14, 1777. Although he had little formal education, he learned German, French, Latin and some chemistry. He passed the entrance examination at Copenhagen University.
His idea that nature’s forces had a common origin resulted in Oersted’s 1820 epochal discovery, when he was professor at Copenhagen University — about the magnetic effect produced by an electric current. This was his breakthrough that paved the way for the electromagnetic discoveries of Andre Ampere and Michael Faraday. Along with this, Oersted also became involved in the development of galvanometer.
Oersted made an accurate measurement of the water compressibility. In 1825, he also succeeded in isolating aluminium for the first time. The ‘Oersted’ unit of magnetic field strength is named after him.
Contributed by Bern Dibner, oersted and the Discovery of Electromagnetism (2nd Edition, 1963), for Chambers Biographical Dictionary 9th Edition, 2011.