Anders Ångström (1814 - 1874)

Anders ÅngströmPhysicist Anders Ångström became an international authority on spectroscopy in 1862 when he was able to demonstrate that the solar atmosphere contains hydrogen. As professor in Uppsala he built up a department that is associated with precision measurement and modern scientific technology.

By the mid-19th century, scientific research at Uppsala had stagnated. When Anders Ångström became professor of physics his ambition was to modernise the department. Almost immediately he introduced practical teaching in the laboratory, a completely new method of education.  

The angstrom unit of measurement becomes an international standard

Together with his colleague Robert Thalén, Anders Ångström created a ”standard institution”, where advanced development of technology was combined with routine collection of data. Subsequently, towards the end of the 19th century, this integration of technology and data collection became the established approach to physics research.

The two researchers also developed norms for how measurements should be made when light spectra are analysed through spectroscopy. Ångström’s name lives on in the unit of measurement for wavelength: 1.0 angstrom is equivalent to 0.1 nanometres (0.000 000 000 1 metre).

Authoritarian leadership style

Anders Ångström was more of a scientist than a teacher. As a person he was perceived to be reserved and students found him unapproachable. His scientific leadership achieved great success but was regarded as excessively authoritarian.

Both Anders Ångström and his son Knut are honoured in the name of the Ångström Laboratory, Uppsala University’s large facility for technical, natural and mathematical sciences, which was inaugurated in 1997.

1843              astronomical observer and lecturer under Gustaf Svanberg in Uppsala
1853              publishes an analysis of the electric spark: Optiska undersökningar 
                      (Optical investigations)
1858–1874    professor of physics at Uppsala University
1868              receives international recognition for his ’solar atlas’, a study of the solar
                      spectrum: Recherches sur le spectre solaire
1905–1957    the unit angstrom is an international standard