Gabriel Fahrenheit’s Incredible Legacy

By Phin Upham

Most people first learn about Gabriel Fahrenheit in American schools, where children learn the Fahrenheit scale to determine the temperature of something. Europeans use the metric system, but they still learn about this German engineer and physicist who gave science a method to empirically measure results.

Born in Poland, Gabriel was the eldest of five children and he had to become head of the family after his parents passed. He went through business apprenticeships, learning the art of being a merchant, but would later take on work as a glass blower. This job catered more toward his love for the natural sciences.

Fahrenheit used his glass blowing skills to create the first thermometer, and he is credited with inventing a very precise tool. He began lecturing in Amsterdam to espouse the benefits of his invention. With it, scientists could make all kinds of meterological observations. His earliest thermometers utilized an alcohol inside, which would react depending on temperature and provide a readout. That was soon switched out in favor of the mercury thermometers we know of today.

Fahrenheit didn’t just invent the thermometer, he had to create a scale scientists could use to measure with. He utilized the coldest temperature he could find in his lab, then recorded the point where water froze. He also took into account the basic temperature of the human body. Mercury allowed him greater precision, and the ability to pinpoint the temperature at which water boils.

There are far more precise instruments today, but the basic thermometer remains a household staple.

About the Author: Phin Upham is an investor at a family office/ hedgefund, where he focuses on special situation illiquid investing. Before this position, Phin Upham was working at Morgan Stanley in the Media and Telecom group. You may contact Phin on his Phin Upham website or Facebook page.