Feeling the Heat

Frederick Alexander Lindemann, a German-born British physicist who made key discoveries in the study of heat, was born on this day in 1886. At the age of 25, Lindemann and German physical chemist Walther Hermann Nernst built a novel calorimeter that, at very low temperatures, could measure specific heat--the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 gram of a substance 1 degree Celsius. Working at the University of Berlin, the duo confirmed Einstein's prediction, based on quantum theory, that the specific heats of solids approach zero near a temperature of absolute zero.

Lindemann also derived an eponymous formula defining the relationship between the melting point of a crystalline solid and the amplitude of the vibration of its atoms. As an airplane pilot, Lindemann validated a theory on how to recover from a tailspin. He was a scientific adviser to Winston Churchill and the British government during World War II. He died in 1957.