George FitzGerald


George FitzGerald

Infobox Scientist
name = George FitzGerald
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caption = George FitzGerald
birth_date = 3 August 1851
birth_place = Dublin
death_date = 21 February 1901
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nationality = Irish
ethnicity =
field = physics
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George Francis FitzGerald (3 August 1851 – 21 February 1901) was an Irish professor of "natural and experimental philosophy" (i.e., physics) at Trinity College, Dublin, in the late 19th century.

FitzGerald was born at No 19, Lower Mount Street in Dublin on 3 August 1851 to the Reverend William FitzGerald and his wife Anne Francis Stoney. Professor of Moral Philosophy in Trinity and vicar of St Anne's, Dawson Street, at the time of his son's birth, William FitzGerald was consecrated Bishop of Cork in 1857 and translated to Killaloe in 1862. George returned to Dublin and entered Trinity as a student at the age of 16. He became a Fellow of Trinity in 1877 and spent the rest of his career at the College.

Along with Oliver Lodge, Oliver Heaviside, and Heinrich Hertz, FitzGerald was a leading figure among the group of "Maxwellians" who revised, extended, clarified, and confirmed James Clerk Maxwell's theory of the electromagnetic field in the late 1870s and 1880s.

In 1883, following from Maxwell's equations, he suggested a device for producing rapidly oscillating electric current, to generate electromagnetic waves, a phenomenon first shown experimentally by Heinrich Hertz in 1888.

However, FitzGerald is better known for his conjecture in 1889 that if all moving objects were foreshortened in the direction of their motion, it would account for the curious result of the Michelson-Morley experiment. FitzGerald based this idea in part on the way electromagnetic forces were known to be affected by motion; in particular, he drew on equations that had been derived a short time before by his friend Oliver Heaviside. The Dutch physicist Hendrik Lorentz hit on a very similar idea in 1892 and developed it more fully in connection with his theory of electrons. The so-called FitzGerald-Lorentz contraction or Lorentz-FitzGerald contraction hypothesis later became an important part of Albert Einstein's special theory of relativity, published in 1905.

Long a sufferer from digestive problems, George Francis FitzGerald succumbed to a perforated ulcer at home on 21 February 1901.

FitzGerald was the nephew of George Johnstone Stoney, the Irish physicist who invented the term "electron".

References

* G.F. Fitzgerald, The ether and the earth's atmosphere, Science 13, 390 (1889).
*Citation
id = PMID:14910599
url= http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14910599
last=McCREA
first=W H
publication-date=1951 Dec 1
year=1951
title=George Francis Fitzgerald, 1851-1901; centenary meeting at the Royal Dublin Society.
volume=168
issue=4283
periodical=Nature
pages=930-2

External links

*
* [http://www.tcd.ie/Physics/history/fitzgerald/ Millenium Trinity Monday Memorial Discourse by Professor J. M. D. Coey]


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