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History of the Thermometer

Daniel Fahrenheit - Fahrenheit Scale


Ice covered thermometer, close-up
Erik Von Weber/ Stone/ Getty Images
What can be considered the first modern thermometer, the mercury thermometer with a standardized scale, was invented by Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (1686-1736) in 1714.

Fahrenheit Scale

The Fahrenheit scale divided the freezing and boiling points of water into 180 degrees. 32°F was the freezing pint of water and 212°F was the boiling point of water. 0°F was based on the temperature of an equal mixture of water, ice, and salt. Daniel Fahrenheit based his temperature scale on the temperature of the human body. Originally, the human body temperature was 100° F on the Fahrenheit scale, but it has since been adjusted to 98.6°F.

Daniel Fahrenheit - Biography

Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit was born in 1686 in Germany into a family of German merchants, however, he lived most of his life in the Dutch Republic. Daniel Fahrenheit married Concordia Schumann, daughter of a well-known business family.

Daniel Gabriel began training as a merchant in Amsterdam after his parents died on August 14, 1701 from eating poisonous mushrooms. However, Fahrenheit had a strong interest in natural science and was fascinated by new inventions such as the thermometer. In 1717, Fahrenheit became a glassblower, making barometers, altimeters, and thermometers. From 1718 onwards, he was a lecturer in chemistry. During a visit to England in 1724, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. Daniel Fahrenheit died in The Hague and was buried there at the Cloister Church.

Inspiration for the Mercury Thermometer

Daniel Gabriel met Olaus Roemer, a Danish astronomer, in Copenhagen. Roemer had invented an alcohol (wine) thermometer. Roemer's thermometer had two points, 60 degrees as the temperature of boiling water and 7 1/2 degrees as the temperature of melting ice. At that time, temperature scales were not standardized and everybody made up their own scale.

Fahrenheit modified Roemer's design and scale, and invented the new mercury themometer with a Fahrenheit scale.

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