Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Uncle Amedeo!

Amedeo Avogadro was (1776-1856) was an Italian scientist who was born in Turin.  He came from a well-to-do family of lawyers and became a lawyer himself.  However, he was more interested in natural sciences and in 1800 began studying physics and math.  In 1809 began teaching science in high school in Vercelli.  In 1811, during his teaching teaching tenure he published an article which contains probably his most famous contribution to science aptly named Avogadro's law (a.k.a. Avogadro’s hypothesis).  In a nutshell, he proposed that the volume of a gas (at a given pressure and temperature) is proportional to the number of atoms or molecules regardless of the nature of the gas.

The number of particles in one mole of substance, 6.02 x 1023 , is known as Avogadro’s number in his honor and was never actually calculated by Avogadro due in part to the technology of the time but his understanding made it possible for later scientists to calculate it.  A rudimentary estimate was first proposed by Johann Josef Loschmidt in 1865 but was not measured accurately until 1909 by French physicist Jean Perrin

Avogadro's private life seems to be a mystery or at least scandal free.  He married Felicita Mazzé and had six children.  It has been suggested that he sponsored some Sardinian revolutionaries, who were eventually stopped by the announcement of Charles Albert's constitution in 1848.  Also, I have been unable to disprove the claim from my chemistry colleague, Antonio Ciccone (also from Italy), who keeps telling his students that Avogadro was his uncle.

wikipedia: Amedeo Avogadro

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