The Hall Effect in the Context of Nineteenth-Century Physics

  • B. R. Judd


Hall’s motivation for carrying out the experiment whose result bears his name attests to the value of a close reading of an established text. Writing in a style that to our eyes seems remarkably open and unaffected, he reported1 his surprise at reading Maxwell’s statement2 that “If the current itself be free to choose any path through a fixed solid conductor or a network of wires, then, when a constant magnetic force is made to act on the system, the path of the current through the conductors is not permanently altered, but after certain transient phenomena, called induction currents, have subsided, the distribution of the current will be found to be the same as if no magnetic force were in action.” To Hall, this appeared “contrary to the most natural supposition,” and, after consultation with Rowland, who had apparently already made some preliminary but unsuccessful attempts to detect the effects of a magnetic field on currents in conductors, he was able so to arrange matters that a positive effect was seen.


Hall Effect Polar Vector Axial Vector Unsuccessful Attempt Constant Magnetic Field 
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  1. 1.
    E. H. Hall, Amer. J. Math. 2: 287 (1879).MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    J. C. Maxwell, “A Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism,” (Third Edition), Constable and Co. Ltd., London (1891); Reprinted by Dover Publications, New York (1954), Vol. 2, p. 157.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    H. A. Rowland, Amer. J. Math. 2: 354 (1879).MathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    J. Hopkinson, Phil. Mag. 10: 430 (1880).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    J. C. Maxwell, Ref. 2, Vol. 1, pp. 420-423.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    See, for example G. Bergmann, Physics Today, 32-8:25 (August 1979).Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    F. Koláček, Ann. Phys. 55:503 (1895). See also M. Abraham, “Theorie der Elektrizität,” Teubner, Leipzig (1907), pp. 247-250.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 1980

Authors and Affiliations

  • B. R. Judd
    • 1
  1. 1.Physics DepartmentThe Johns Hopkins UniversityBaltimoreUSA

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