Teaching Science through History

Measuring Heat and Temperature (thermometers and calorimetry)

by John Oversby

Temperature was a rather elusive concept until it was measured. The development of instruments for quantitative measurement was vital for characterising the concept, for explaining human sensations of hot and cold, for providing ways of exploring a range of temperatures greater than that of direct human experience, and for exploring the nature of the measuring instruments themselves. This case study starts with the construction of a gas thermometer, one of the first types in history, and then proceeds to different types of thermometers. It also addresses concepts of heat and calorimetry.

NOS features include:

  • role of instruments and measurement
  • calibration
  • extending human limits of observation

Go to University of Reading "Instruments" wiki.
See synoptic discussion at HIPST [PDF].

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