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James Prescott Joule
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Scientist
    (December 24, 1818-October 11, 1889)
    Born in Salford, Lancashire, England, United Kingdom
    Brewer and physicist
    Studied the nature of heat
    Formulated Joule's first law: the heat produced by an electric current is proportional to the resistance of the wire and the square of the current
    Established that different forms of energy -- mechanical, electrical, heat -- can be changed into one another
    With William Thomson, discovered the Joule-Thomson effect: when a gas is allowed to expand without performing work, its temperature drops
    Namesake for the SI unit of energy, the joule
    Growing up, he and his brother experimented with electricity by giving shocks to each other -- and the family servants.
    He interrupted his honeymoon in the French Alps to conduct an experiment (ultimately without success) to measure the temperature difference between the top and bottom of one of the local waterfalls.
    His theories about heat were initially so controversial that no scientific journal would publish them; instead, they first appeared in the Manchester Courier, a daily newspaper.
    His wife and youngest son died in the same year (1854).
    He ran the family brewery during the day, and conducted scientific experiments at night and on weekends.
    The Joule-Thomson effect is exploited in refrigeration and air conditioning.
    His measurements of heat contributed to the formulation of the law of conservation of energy and the first law of thermodynamics.

Credit: C. Fishel


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