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Hertz

Hertz, Heinrich Rudolf (1857-1894),
German physicist was born in Hamburg and educated at the University of Berlin. From 1885 to 1889 he was a professor of physics at the technical school in Karlsruhe and after 1889 a professor of physics at the University in Bonn. Hertz clarified and expanded the electro-magnetic theory of light that had been put forth by the British physicist James Clerk Maxwell in 1884. Hertz proved that electricity can be transmitted in electromagnetic waves, which travel at the speed of light and which possess many other properties of light. His experiments with these electromagnetic waves led to the development of the wireless telegraph and the radio.

His name also became the term used for radio and electrical frequencies: hertz (Hz), as in kilohertz (KHz) or megahertz (MHz). The hertz designation has been an official part of the international metric system since 1933. Before Hertz gained professorships in Karlsruhe and Bonn, he had studied under the famous scientist Hermann von Helmholtz in Bonn, and it was Helmholtz who encouraged Hertz to attempt to win the science prize that led to some of Hertz's most important discoveries. From 1885 to 1889 Hertz became the first person to broadcast and receive radio waves, and to establish the fact that light was a form of electromagnetic radiation. (The Italian Marconi didn't begin his own wireless experiments until 1894, based on the earlier work of Hertz, Maxwell, and others.) Hertz probably would have gone on to make many more scientific contributions, but he died quite young, less than a month before his 37th birthday.