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Otto von Guericke (1602–1686) and His Pioneering Vacuum Experiments

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Harsch V. Otto von Guericke (1602–1686) and his pioneering vacuum experiments. Aviat Space Environ Med 2007; 78:1075–7.

The German scholar Otto von Guericke (1602–1686) is regarded as one of the most prominent figures of the scientific revolution in the 17th century. A politician, physicist, engineer, and natural philosopher, von Guericke invented the world's first air pump in 1650. By performing and interpreting some pioneering vacuum experiments, he made important contributions to the basic principles of the physics of fluids and gases. He is most recognized for his so-called Magdeburg experiments, in which two copper hemispheres were placed together, the interior evacuated, and two teams of horses were unable to pull the evacuated hemispheres apart until the air was readmitted. In this way in 1654 he first demonstrated the enormous power of the atmosphere. Through this and other experiments, Otto von Guericke significantly contributed to the understanding of high altitude physiology, and was the first to experiment with an artificial vacuum. However, it took more than three centuries before his pioneering book, Experimenta Nova Magdeburgica de Vacua Spatio (1672), was translated into English in 1994, bringing his genius, scientific ideas, and philosophical understanding to a wider audience.
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Keywords: Otto von Guericke; air pump; history of aerospace medicine; vacuum experiments

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: From the History and Archives Committee of the German Aerospace Medical Association (DGLRM), Neubrandenburg, Germany.

Publication date: 01 November 2007

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