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Hans Christian Ørsted. Natuurwetenschapper als estheticus

22 March 2012

PhD ceremony: Mr. J. Millekamp, 12.45 uur, Academiegebouw, Broerstraat 5, Groningen

Dissertation: Hans Christian Ørsted. Natuurwetenschapper als estheticus

Promotor(s): prof. A.M. Swanson

Faculty: Arts

The Danish scientist Hans Christian Ørsted (1777-1851) is most famous for his discovery of electromagnetism, a discovery that literally and irreversibly changed our world. In Denmark he is also known as a poet and essayist. Interestingly, his scientific and his aesthetic work are closely interrelated. This springs from his epistemology, in which the sciences and cultural and social knowledge areas form one coherent unity that may especially be known by means of experiments. Ørsted is the inventor of the ‘thought experiment’, a term and technique that is now widely used in sciences such as modern physics. Jan Millekamp’s thesis describes Ørsted’s development as a scientist and as an aesthetic. In 1796, for instance, he won the great prize for aesthetics of the University of Copenhagen with an essay on poetics, and a year later the same university awarded him the great prize for medicine for his important essay on the origin and function of amniotic fluid. Ørsted was intimately acquainted with the leading cultural personalities of his time in Denmark as well as in Norway and Sweden, while through his scientifically motivated travels - sometimes taking years - he was widely known in scientific and cultural circles throughout Western Europe. From a young age, as guidance in his scientific and cultural work, Ørsted adhered to the radical contention that not the atoms but the forces ought to form the fundamental basis of the study of spiritual and physical life.

Last modified:13 March 2020 01.00 a.m.
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