Georg Simon Ohm

Georg Simon Ohm was a very famous German physicist who is best remembered for his Ohm's Law. The unit of electrical resistance is named after him. Georg Simon was born on the 16th of March in Erlangen, Bavaria (presently part of Germany) to Johann Wolfgang Ohm and Maria Elizabeth Beck. Even though neither of his parents had any formal education, Ohm grew up with a very good training in Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Philosophy. He imbibed his lessons from his father who had taught himself to a very advanced level. At the age of eleven, Georg Simon enrolled at the Erlangen Gymnasium. Educational methods in those days placed more stress on learning and interpreting facts rather than on analytical thinking. Hence, formal schooling did not prove to be of great help to Georg Simon. It was his fatherís teachings which proved to be a great inspiration and stood Georg Simon in very good stead in the long run.


Georg Simon went to the University of Erlangen in 1805. While in college, he fell to the ills and distractions of young age. This greatly disappointed his father, who felt his efforts at educating his son had been wasted. After three semesters of college, Ohm, went to Switzerland and in 1806, he was appointed a teacher of mathematics at a school near Gottstadt bei Nydau. In 1809, he gave up this position to become a private tutor at Neuchatel. During this time he simultaneously carried on with his private studies in mathematics, working on the texts of Euler, Laplace and Lacroix. This helped him make up for the lost time and finally he was awarded a Doctorate degree from the University of Erlangen on October 25th, 1811.

Between 1811 and 1825 Ohm changed jobs more than once. On each occasion he held the position of a teacher of mathematics. However, he was not satisfied by the jobs he had. He made up his mind that he was really looking for the simulating environment that the job of a professor at a university would provide him with. This realization came along with the understanding that he would have to start publishing papers in order to be eligible for the post of a university professor.  In order to fulfill his desire, Ohm took to seriously studying the works of various leading mathematicians of the time like Lagrange, Legendre, Laplace, Biot, Poisson, Fourier, and Fresnel.

His extensive studies and substantiated by the experimental work he accomplished during this time, helped him to come up with results which proved that a greater loss in electromotive force was produced by a longer wire. He published this result in his first paper in 1825. The paper derived the mathematical relationships based purely on experimental results. He further investigated using a thermocouple as a source of current and found that the electromagnetic force, which is actually a measure of the current flowing in a conductor, was equal to the electromotive force produced by the thermocouple divided by the length of the conductor being tested plus a quantity that he called the resistance of the rest of the circuit including the thermocouple itself (Internal Resistance). In two very important papers published in 1826, Ohm gave a rigorous mathematical description of conduction in circuits. In the second paper, he proposed laws which actually went a long way in explaining results of other scientists working in the field of galvanic electricity. He further went on to investigate the variation of tension or potential at different points in a conductor to verify his law. This is what we know of today as the Ohm's Law. In 1827, he published his laws in his book, Die galvanische Kette, mathematisch bearbietet, where he developed his complete theory of electricity.

Even though Ohmís work had impacted the direction of contemporary research and the way in which scientists of the era thought and felt, there was limited appreciation for his efforts among his peers. This left Ohm very upset. Finally in 1841, Ohmís work was recognized by the Royal Society, which awarded him the Copley Medal. Soon after he had become a member of the Royal Society, academic societies across Europe gave him membership. In 1845, the Bavarian Academy awarded him full membership. It was not until 1852, two years before his death, that Ohm's life long aspiration was fulfilled when he was invited to a chair of Physics at the University of Munich.