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Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, a pioneer in understanding radio waves, was born in Hamburg on February 22, 1857. Though he died on January 1, 1894 at the age of thirty-seven, Hertz contributed greatly to the world of science through his discovery. Hertz’s success was impacted by his prosperous upbringing.Heinrich Hertz grew up in a cultured Hanseatic family, a family descended from wealthy traders from northern Germany that eventually lost their monopoly. Regardless, Hanseatic families still held many leadership positions in their towns such as senators and pastors. This is evident as Hertz’s life as his father Gustav Hertz had been both during his lifetime. The success of his family allowed for Hertz to go to rigorous private schools such as that under the rule of the taskmaster Richard Lange. In this private school, error was not accepted, however, Hertz prevailed and ended each school year top of his class. Hertz’s advanced education and natural mindset allowed him to pursue his earliest curiosities: tinkering and constructing. At the age of twelve, Hertz built a galvanometer and spectroscope so well they lasted him through college many years later using only his workbench, woodworking tools and skills, and a recently acquired lathe. Hertz’s abilities did not falter there, however, as he also bore an extraordinary gift for learning languages both modern and ancient. At the age of fifteen, he left Richard Lange’s school for the Johanneum Gymnasium where he excelled in Greek while also taking private lessons in Arabic. In the coming years, Hertz was often undecided on what he wanted to pursue for a career. After around six changes in four years, Hertz decided to pursue his greatest curiosity and love: science.Hertz was more pursuant and enthusiastic than ever with his studies and experiments once he was decided to major in science. In the winter of 1887, Hertz studied many scientific studies, read scientific journals, and attended some science lectures. The following spring he worked towards his own laboratory experience with Gustav von Jolly before studying under the German physicist Hermann von Helmholtz. Helmholtz noticed Hertz natural learning abilities and understanding of science immediately and encouraged him to write a research paper proving whether or not electricity moved with inertia. During his experiments to test if electricity moved with inertia, Hertz found he was a hands-on learner and preferred to learn and teach himself best. Hertz proved that electricity did not move with inertia and moved on to later graduate early in 1880 receiving his Ph.D. magna cum laude from the University of Berlin.The greatest discovery by Heinrich Hertz however was not about the lack of inertia with electricity, rather it was his discovery and proof of concept that James Clerk Maxwell’s Theory of electromagnetism was correct. Hertz discovered this while a professor at the University of Karlsruhe. He had previously worked as a professor of mathematical physics at the University of Kiel but focused on the theoretical instead of the experimental there and thus longed to go elsewhere. Before making the move he wrote papers comparing the elegance of Maxwell’s theory to competing theories. As a result, when Hertz because a professor as the University of Karlsruhe, he set out to prove Maxwell’s theory.One year and seven months after switching universities, Hertz made an observation which gave hope to Maxwell’s theory. During a lesson with students he noticed that the sparks between wires produced a regular electrical vibration within the wires they jumped between. Hertz predicted that this was the proving factor for Maxwell’s theory, and as he later found out, it was. Hertz tested this by reflecting, refracting, and producing interference patterns with the waves. For Hertz this was a small accomplishment, he proved Maxwell’s theory true, however, he did not stop to consider the functionality of such a wave. Hertz dismissed the electromagnetic wave stating in his journal that he did “not think that the wireless waves he discovered would have any practical application.” Seven short years after his death, his “wireless waves,” now called radio waves, were part of a patent for wireless communications.Among Hertz’s discoveries was also the Photoelectric Effect, the effect of electrically charged metal losing charge faster under a UV light. Occupied with Maxwell’s theory at the time of discovery, Hertz left this theory for other scientists and physicists to solve. Twelve years after its discovery in 1887, J. J. Thompson added on to Hertz’s theory by discovering that metal shone with UV eject electrons. This led to Albert Einstein’s reworking of the theory of light. Einstein used the theory to prove that light came in “distinct packets of energy called photons.” This paved the way for much of Einstein’s other research. Therefore, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz is responsible for the progression of much of Einstein’s research too.Hertz’s discoveries were later translated to to English in three volumes: Electric Waves, Miscellaneous Papers, and Principles of Mechanics. His work additionally unified the world’s understanding of electromagnetism, specifically Germany where there was two major theories. Hertz’s work also earned him the Rumford Medal in 1890 from the Royal Society for being an “outstanding researcher in the field of physics.” Hertz died of granulomatosis in 1894. After his death, Hertz’s wife, Elisabeth Doll, and kids Johanna and Mathilde moved to England. In England, Mathilde became a high achieving scholar much like his parents but excelled as a biologist.Hertz contributed to science and physics enormously during his short life. His proving of Maxwell’s theory paved the way for many great scientists such as Einstein. Additionally, Hertz had the privilege of sharing his work with the world from his lectures and the papers published after his death from his journals.

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