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Seratus Tokoh yang Paling

Berpengaruh dalam Sejarah


oleh Michael H. Hart

28 MICHAEL FARADAY 1791-1867


Abad ini abad
listrik. Memang, ada
yang bilang abad
ruang angkasa, ada
yang bilang abad
atom, tetapi
kesemuanya ini --
betapapun
pentingya-- relatif
sedikit pengaruhnya
kepada kehidupan
sehari-hari. Lain
halnya dengan
listrik. Tak
terbayangkan
rasanya hidup bisa
jalan baik tanpa
listrik. Tak habis-
habisnya dari pagi
hingga pagi kita
mengambil manfaat
dari listrik. Fakta
menunjukkan, tak ada jenis teknologi yang begitu luas tersebar ketimbang
penggunaan listrik.

Banyak tokoh penyumbang dalam hal kelistrikan: Charles Augustine de


Coulomb, Count Alessandro Volta, Hans Christian Oersted dan Andre Marie
Ampere. Mereka-mereka ini diantara jago-jago terbaik di bidang listrik.
Namun, puncak bin puncak dari semuanya adalah ilmuwan Inggris Michael
Faraday dan James Clerk Maxwell. Walaupun kerja kedua orang itu
berkaitan satu sama lain dan saling lengkap-melengkapi, tetapi mereka
bukan berada dalam satu tim, masing-masing mencipta secara pribadi,
karena itu kedua-duanya dapat tempat terhormat di dalam daftar urutan buku
ini.

Michael Faraday lahir tahun 1791 di Newington, Inggris. Berasal-usul dari


keluarga tak berpunya dan umumnya belajar sendiri. Di usia empat belas
tahun dia magang jadi tukang jilid dan jual buku, dan kesempatan inilah
yang digunakannya banyak baca buku seperti orang kesetanan. Tatkala
umurnya menginjak dua puluh tahun, dia mengunjungi ceramah-ceramah
yang diberikan oleh ilmuwan Inggris kenamaan Sir Humphry Davy. Faraday
terpesona dan ternganga-nganga. Ditulisnya surat kepada Davy dan pendek
ceritera untung baik diterima sebagai asistennya. Hanya dalam tempo
beberapa tahun, Faraday sudah bisa membikin penemuan-penemuan baru
atas hasil kreasinya sendiri. Meski dia tidak punya latar belakang yang
memadai di bidang matematika, selaku ahli ilmu alam dia tak terlawankan.

Penemuan Faraday pertama yang penting di bidang listrik terjadi tahun 1821.
Dua tahun sebelumnya Oersted telah menemukan bahwa jarum magnit
kompas biasa dapat beringsut jika arus listrik dialirkan dalam kawat yang
tidak berjauhan. Ini membikin Faraday berkesimpulan, jika magnit
diketatkan, yang bergerak justru kawatnya. Bekerja atas dasar dugaan ini, dia
berhasil membuat suatu skema yang jelas dimana kawat akan terus-menerus
berputar berdekatan dengan magnit sepanjang arus listrik dialirkan ke kawat.
Sesungguhnya dalam hal ini Faraday sudah menemukan motor listrik
pertama, suatu skema pertama penggunaan arus listrik untuk membuat
sesuatu benda bergerak. Betapapun primitifnya, penemuan Faraday ini
merupakan "nenek moyang" dari semua motor listrik yang digunakan dunia
sekarang ini.

Ini merupakan pembuka jalan yang luar biasa. Tetapi, faedah kegunaan
praktisnya terbatas, sepanjang tidak ada metode untuk menggerakkan arus
listrik selain dari baterei kimiawi sederhana pada saat itu. Faraday yakin,
mesti ada suatu cara penggunaan magnit untuk menggerakkan listrik, dan dia
terus-menerus mencari jalan bagaimana menemukan metode itu. Kini,
magnit yang tak berpindah-pindah tidak mempengaruhi arus listrik yang
berdekatan dengan kawat. Tetapi di tahun 1831, Faraday menemukan bahwa
bilamana magnit dilalui lewat sepotong kawat, arus akan mengalir di kawat
sedangkan magnit bergerak. Keadaan ini disebut "pengaruh elektro
magnetik," dan penemuan ini disebut "Hukum Faraday" dan pada umumnya
dianggap penemuan Faraday yang terpenting dan terbesar.

Ini merupakan penemuan yang monumental, dengan dua alasan. Pertama,


"Hukum Faraday" mempunyai arti penting yang mendasar dalam hubungan
dengan pengertian teoritis kita tentang elektro magnetik. Kedua, elektro
magnetik dapat digunakan untuk menggerakkan secara terus-menerus arus
aliran listrik seperti diperagakan sendiri oleh Faraday lewat pembuatan
dinamo listrik pertama. Meski generator tenaga pembangkit listrik kita untuk
mensuplai kota dan pabrik dewasa ini jauh lebih sempurna ketimbang apa
yang diperbuat Faraday, tetapi kesemuanya berdasar pada prinsip serupa
dengan pengaruh elektro magnetik.

Faraday juga memberi sumbangan di bidang kimia. Dia membuat rencana


mengubah gas jadi cairan, dia menemukan pelbagai jenis kimiawi termasuk
benzene. Karya lebih penting lagi adalah usahanya di bidang elektro kimia
(penyelidikan tentang akibat kimia terhadap arus listrik). Penyelidikan
Faraday dengan ketelitian tinggi menghasilkan dua hukum "elektrolysis"
yang penyebutannya dirangkaikan dengan namanya yang merupakan dasar
dari elektro kimia. Dia juga mempopulerkan banyak sekali istilah yang
digunakan dalam bidang itu seperti: anode, cathode, electrode dan ion.

Dan adalah Faraday jua yang memperkenalkan ke dunia fisika gagasan


penting tentang garis magnetik dan garis kekuatan listrik. Dengan penekanan
bahwa bukan magnit sendiri melainkan medan diantaranya, dia menolong
mempersiapkan jalan untuk pelbagai macam kemajuan di bidang fisika
modern, termasuk pernyataan Maxwell tentang persamaan antara dua
ekspresi lewat tanda (=) seperti 2x + 5 = 10. Faraday juga menemukan, jika
perpaduan dua cahaya dilewatkan melalui bidang magnit, perpaduannya
akan mengalami perubahan. Penemuan ini punya makna penting khusus,
karena ini merupakan petunjuk pertama bahwa ada hubungan antara cahaya
dengan magnit.

Faraday bukan cuma cerdas tetapi juga tampan dan punya gaya sebagai
penceramah. Tetapi, dia sederhana, tak ambil peduli dalam hal kemasyhuran,
duit dan sanjungan. Dia menolak diberi gelar kebangsawanan dan juga
menolak jadi ketua British Royal Society. Hidup perkawinannya panjang dan
berbahagia, cuma tak punya anak. Dia tutup usia tahun 1867 di dekat kota
London.

Amedeo Avogadro

Avogadro - the man


Lorenzo Romano Amedeo Carlo Avogadro, conte di Quaregna e di Cerreto (1776
- 1856), was born in Turin, Italy, on 9th August, 1776. He was the son of Count
Filippo Avogadro and Anna Maria Vercellone. His father was a distinguished lawyer
and civil servant, becoming a senator of Piedmont in 1768, and was appointed
advocate general to the senate of Vittorio Amedeo III in 1777. Under the French rule
of 1799 he was made president of the senate.

Amedeo Avogadro went to school in Turin. Coming from a family of well established
ecclesiastical lawyers, Avogadro was guided toward a legal career, and became a
bachelor of jurisprudence in 1792, at the ripe old age of just 16 years. Four years later
he gained his doctorate in ecclesiastical law and began to practice. In 1801 he was
appointed secretary to the prefecture of the department of Eridano.

In spite of his successful legal career, Avogadro also showed an interest in natural
philosophy, and in 1800 he began private studies of mathematics and physics. His first
scientific research in 1803, undertaken jointly with his brother Felice, was on
electricity.

In 1806, Avogadro was appointed demonstrator at the Academy of Turin, and in 1809
became professor of natural philosophy at the college of Vercelli. In 1820, when the
very first chair of mathematical physics in Italy was established at the University of
Turin, Avogadro was appointed. Unfortunately, his post was short lived, since political
changes suppressed the chair and Avogadro was out of a job by July, 1822. The chair
was eventually reestablished in 1832, and Avogadro was reappointed to the position in
1834. Here he remained until his retirement in 1850.

Avogadro had succeeded to his father's title in 1787. He married Felicita Mazzé, and
they had a total of six children. Avogadro led an industrious life, and was a modest
man, working in isolation. This probably contributed to his relative obscurity,
particularly outside Italy. Avogadro died on the 9th July, 1856. He was described as
religious, but not a bigot.

Avogadro - his contribution to chemistry


In order to understand the contribution that Avogadro made, we must consider some
of the ideas being developed at this time. Chemistry was just beginning to become an
exact science. The Law of Definite Proportions and the Law of Multiple
Proportions were well accepted by 1808, at which time John Dalton published his
New System of Chemical Philosophy.

Dalton proposed that the atoms of each element had a characteristic atomic weight,
and that it was atoms that were the combining units in chemical reactions. Dalton had
no method of measuring atomic weights unambiguously, so made the incorrect
assumption that in the most common compound between two elements, there was one
atom of each.

At around this time, Gay-Lussac was studying the chemical reactions of gases, and
found that the ratios of volumes of the reacting gases were small integer numbers.
This provided a more logical method of assigning atomic weights. Gay-Lussac did not
carry through the full implications of his work. However, Dalton realised that a simple
integral relation between volumes of reacting gases implied an equally simple relation
between reacting particles. Dalton still equated particles with atoms, and could not
accept how one particle of oxygen could yield two particles of water. This was a
direct threat to the relatively new atomic theory, and therefore Dalton tried to
discredit the work of Gay-Lussac.

In 1811, Avogadro published an article in Journal de physique that clearly drew the
distinction between the molecule and the atom. He pointed out that Dalton had
confused the concepts of atoms and molecules. The "atoms" of nitrogen and oxygen
are in reality "molecules" containing two atoms each. Thus two molecules of
hydrogen can combine with one molecule of oxygen to produce two molecules of
water.

Avogadro suggested that

equal volumes of all gases at the same temperature and pressure contain the same
number of molecules
which is now known as Avogadro's Principle.

The work of Avogadro was almost completely neglected until it was forcefully
presented by Stanislao Cannizarro at the Karlsruhe Conference in 1860. He showed
that Avogadro's Principle could be used to determine not only molar masses, but also,
indirectly, atomic masses. The reason for the earlier neglect of Avogadro's work was
probably the deeply rooted conviction that chemical combination occurred by virtue
of an affinity between unlike elements. After the electrical discoveries of Galvani and
Volta, this affinity was generally ascribed to the attraction between unlike charges.
The idea that two identical atoms of hydrogen might combine into the compound
molecular hydrogen was abhorrent to the chemical philosophy of the early nineteenth
century.

Avogadro - his number


It was long after Avogadro that the idea of a mole was introduced. Since a molecular
weight in grams (mole) of any substance contains the same number of molecules, then
according to Avogadro's Principle, the molar volumes of all gases should be the same.
The number of molecules in one mole is now called Avogadro's number. It must be
emphasised that Avogadro, of course, had no knowledge of moles, or of the number
that was to bear his name. Thus the number was never actually determined by
Avogadro himself.

As we all know today, Avogadro's number is very large, the presently accepted value
being 6.0221367 x 1023. The size of such a number is extremely difficult to
comprehend. There are many awe-inspiring illustrations to help visualize the
enormous size of this number. For example:

• An Avogadro's number of standard soft drink cans would cover the surface of
the earth to a depth of over 200 miles.
• If you had Avogadro's number of unpopped popcorn kernels, and spread them
across the United States of America, the country would be covered in popcorn
to a depth of over 9 miles.
• If we were able to count atoms at the rate of 10 million per second, it would
take about 2 billion years to count the atoms in one mole.

Determination of the number

Cannizarro, around 1860, used Avogadro's ideas to obtain a set of atomic weights,
based upon oxygen having an atomic weight of 16. In 1865, Loschmidt used a
combination of liquid density, gaseous viscosity, and the kinetic theory of gases, to
establish roughly the size of molecules, and hence the number of molecules in 1 cm3
of gas.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century, it was possible to obtain reasonable
estimates for Avogadro's number from sedimentation measurements of colloidal
particles. Into the twentieth century, then Mullikan's oil drop experiment gave much
better values, and was used for many years.

A more modern method is to calculate the Avogadro number from the density of a
crystal, the relative atomic mass, and the unit cell length, determined from x-ray
methods. To be useful for this purpose, the crystal must be free of defects. Very
accurate values of these quantities for silicon have been measured at the National
Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST).

To use this approach, it is necessary to have accurate values of atomic weights, often
obtained by measuring the mass of atomic ions. For example, an ion trap, employing
extremely uniform and stable magnetic and electric fields should allow such
measurements to be made to better than 1 part in 1010. The relative atomic mass of
silicon is particularly important, since silicon crystals are used in the x-ray methods
mentioned above.

As a continuation of this approach, one of the 1999 NIST Precision Measurement


Grants was awarded to David Pritchard, physics professor at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology. He will conduct cyclotron frequency measurements on ions
that could achieve a 100-fold improvement in the accuracy of atomic mass
measurements. MIT has developed the world's most accurate mass spectrometer
capable of measuring the atomic mass of atoms to one part in 10 billion. Pritchard
proposes to simultaneously measure the cyclotron frequencies of two different ions in
order to improve the values of several fundamental constants, including Avogadro's
number.

At the present time, information on Avogadro's number from many different


experiments is pooled with other observations on other physical constants. A most
probable and self-consistent set of physical constants that best fits all reliable data is
then found by statistical methods.

The size of Avogadro's number is determined by our definition of the mole. What it
does demonstrate is how small an atom or molecule is compared to the amounts of
material we are familiar with in everyday life, since the definition of the mole
involves amounts of material we are completely familiar with.