Anders Celsius

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Anders Celsius (27 November 1701 – 25 April 1744) was a Swedish astronomer. He was professor of astronomy at Uppsala University from 1730 to 1744, but traveled from 1732 to 1735 visiting notable observatories in Germany, Italy and France. He founded the Uppsala Astronomical Observatory in 1741, and in 1742 he proposed the Celsius temperature scale which takes his name. The scale was later reversed in 1745 by Carl Linnaeus, one year after Celsius' death.



Early life

Anders Celsius was born in Uppsala, Sweden on 27 November 1701. His family originated from Ovanåker in the province of Hälsingland. The family name is a Latin version of the name of the vicarage (Högen). Anders was raised a Lutheran.

As the son of an astronomy professor, Nils Celsius, and the grandson of the mathematician Magnus Celsius and the astronomer Anders Spole, Celsius chose a career in science.[1] He was a talented mathematician from an early age. Anders Celsius studied at Uppsala University, where his father was a teacher, and in 1730 he, too, became a professor of astronomy there.


In 1730, he published the Nova Methodus distantiam solis a terra determinandi (New Method for Determining the Distance from the Sun to the Earth). His research also involved the study of auroral phenomena, which he conducted with his assistant Olof Hiorter, and he was the first to suggest a connection between the aurora borealis and changes in the magnetic field of the Earth.[2] He observed the variations of a compass needle and found that larger deflections correlated with stronger auroral activity. At Nuremberg in 1733, he published a collection of 316 observations of the aurora borealis made by himself and others over the period 1716–1732.[3]

Celsius traveled frequently in the early 1730s, including to Germany, Italy, and France, when he visited most of the major European observatories. In Paris he advocated the measurement of an arc of the meridian in Lapland. In 1736, he participated in the expedition organized for that purpose by the French Academy of Sciences, led by the French mathematician Pierre Louis Maupertuis (1698–1759) to measure a degree of latitude. The aim of the expedition was to measure the length of a degree along a meridian, close to the pole, and compare the result with a similar expedition to Peru, today in Ecuador, near the equator. The expeditions confirmed Isaac Newton's belief that the shape of the earth is an ellipsoid flattened at the poles.[1]

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