Professor Peter Grant sheds light on historical development of the ohm

Professor Peter Grant, the School’s Emeritus Professor and formerly 8th Regius Chair of Engineering, has shed new light on historical advances in the measurement of electrical resistance in a journal article published in the Proceedings of the IEEE journal.

The Proceedings of the IEEE is published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), the world’s largest learned society in the field of electronic and electrical engineering with around 400,000 members.

Professor Grant's article, which is co-authored by Professor John Thompson of the School's Institute for Digital Communications, explores the role of his predecessor, Professor Fleeming Jenkin, in establishing the ohm as the absolute unit of electrical resistance measurement - still in use today.

Fleeming Jenkin was the first Regius Chair of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, appointed by Queen Victoria in 1868. From 1861-1867, he was also secretary to a committee of eminent scientists and engineers who reported to the British Association for the Advancement of Science on how to standardise the definition of electrical resistance. The work of this committee helped to promote a wider understanding of how to design and test electrical systems, particularly undersea cables - work in which Fleeming Jenkin and another committee member, William Thomson (Lord Kelvin) were actively engaged at the time.

The paper's publication follows an IEEE event co-organised by Professor Grant in September 2019 at the Hunterian Museum in Glasgow, at which a milestone plaque celebrating the work of the British Association for the Advancement of Science committee was unveiled by IEEE President, Professor Jose Moura (pictured). A second plaque is to be installed at the birthplace of James Clerk Maxwell in Edinburgh, who was also an active member of this committee.

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