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Dictionary of Units / Measurements

Temperature Scales Unit

There have been five main temperature scales, each one being named after the person who invented it.

G D FAHRENHEIT (1686-1736) a German physicist, in about 1714 proposed the first practical scale. He called the freezing-point of water 32 degrees (so as to avoid negative temperatures) and the boiling-point 212 degrees.

R A F de REAUMUR (1673-1757) A French entomologist, proposed a similar scale in 1730, but set the freezing-point at 0 degrees and the boiling-point at 80 degrees. This was used quite a bit but is now obsolete.

Anders CELSIUS (1701-1744) a Swedish astronomer, proposed the 100-degree scale (from 0 to 100) in 1742. This was widely adopted as the centigrade scale. But since grades and centigrades were also measures of angle, in 1947 it officially became the Celsius scale. Also, the S I system of units gives preference to naming units after people where possible.

William Thomson, 1st Lord KELVIN (1824-1907) a Scottish mathematician and physicist, worked with J P Joule - about 1862 - to produce an absolute scale of temperature based on laws of heat rather than the freezing/boiling-points of water. This work produced the idea of 'absolute zero', a temperature below which it was not possible to go. Its value is -273.15 degrees on the Celsius scale.

William J M RANKINE (1820-1872) a Scottish engineer and scientist, promoted the Kelvin scale in its Fahrenheit form, when the equivalent value of absolute zero is -459.67 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nowadays, while scientists use the KELVIN scale, the CELSIUS scale is the preferred scale in our everyday lives. However, the Fahrenheit scale is still widely used and there frequently is a need to be able to change from one to the other.

To change temperature given in Fahrenheit (F) to Celsius (C)

      Start with (F);   subtract 32;   multiply by 5;   divide by 9;   the answer is (C)

To change temperature given in Celsius (C) to Fahrenheit (F)

      Start with (C);   multiply by 9;   divide by 5;   add on 32;   the answer is (F)


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