The Other Side Of Ørsted: Civil Obedience

  • Karen Jelved
  • Andrew D. Jackson
Part of the Boston Studies In The Philosophy Of Science book series (BSPS, volume 241)

Danes refer to the first half of the 19th century as the Golden Age, a time when the interaction between philosophy, art, and science was closer than it is today. The broad spectrum of his interests reveals that Ørsted was very much a man of his time. This is, of course, the primary focus of this symposium. But it was also an era which recognized the fact that scientific techniques and recently acquired scientific knowledge could exert an important and beneficial influence on industry, society, and the lives of ordinary citizens. Ørsted’s activities in this area increased throughout his life, and they are in no small part responsible for Denmark’s continuing affection for him. In this paper we would like to suggest the remarkable scope of Ørsted’s tireless efforts to use the natural sciences in the service of his country.


Copper Sulphate Cane Sugar Popular Education Danish Society World Commentary 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. See, for example, Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted, K. Jelved, A. D. Jackson, and O. Knudsen, (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998) for an English language translation of these and Ørsted’s other scientific writings.Google Scholar
  2. Ørsted and his brother, Anders Sandøe, became close friends with Oehlenschläger as students in the late 1790s in Copenhagen. Their close relationship was strengthened by A. S. Ørsted’s marriage to Adam’s sister, Sophie.Google Scholar
  3. See Jelved et al., Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted …, p. 282.Google Scholar
  4. See Jelved et al. Selected Scientific Works of Hans Christian Ørsted, p. 139.Google Scholar
  5. The records from the early years of SNU are to be found at the Niels Bohr Archive in Copenhagen, where they lie largely undisturbed in cardboard boxes—a fascinating source for future research.Google Scholar
  6. The fluid to be studied was placed in a vessel fitted with a narrow tube and sealed with a drop of mercury. This vessel was placed in a larger, water-filled container to which pressure could be applied by a piston. The volume of the water could be determined, from the height of the mercury drop, with confidence since its container was subject to equal internal and external pressures.Google Scholar
  7. Grundtvig’s high schools were funded from other sources and played a significant role in Danish society. Although they still exist, their importance is now on the wane.Google Scholar
  8. Ørsted was one of the first to recognize the promise of H. C. Andersen, and their friendship was warm. Andersen’s weekly visits to the Ørsted home continued throughout Ørsted’s life.Google Scholar
  9. See Marie-Louise Berner: “Oh, our age is the Golden Age of inventions” in Intersections (Gyldendal, Copenhagen, 2000), pp. 122–137.Google Scholar
  10. The intensity of Ørsted’s teaching obligations is remarkable given his scientific accomplishments. It is no less remarkable for being “self-inflicted”. By contrast, Niels Bohr was freed from all University teaching responsibilities in 1927.Google Scholar
  11. It should be emphasized that Ørsted held no formal government office and had no formal power base. His successful endeavors was due solely to the quality of his arguments and the general conviction that he was providing fair and unbiased advice.Google Scholar
  12. Ørsted suggested a new term of Danish-Germanic origin for meteorology vejrligslære, but it never caught on. See Henrik Andersen: “H. C. Ørsted’s Contribution to the Danish Language” in Intersections (Copenhagen: Gyldendal, 2000), pp. 138–149.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Karen Jelved
    • 1
  • Andrew D. Jackson
    • 2
  1. 1.Copenhagen UniversityDenmark
  2. 2.Niels Bohr InstituteDenmark

Personalised recommendations