A song for the often unsung heroes
Martin Rowe, Senior Technical Editor- November 20, 2007
Volta, Ampere, Ohm, Faraday, Coulomb, and a host of others are no longer “unsung,” for now they have a song. After hearing the children’s CD “American Heroes” by Jonathan Sprout, I thought it was time someone wrote a song about people who contributed to the jobs we have today—Volta, Ampere, Hertz, and others. And, what better name for the song than “Electrical Heroes” (listen to the song).
Before I could write the lyrics, I had to research the people for the song. Fortunately, everything I needed was in one place, The Story of Electrical and Magnetic Measurements by Joseph F. Keithley. Keithley’s book, published in 1999, covers the people who made electrical history from Thales of Miletus in Ancient Greece to Joseph John Thompson, who discovered the electron.
“Electrical Heroes” takes you on a tour of scientists, engineers, mathematicians, and inventors, from Franklin to Hertz, who made significant discoveries in electricity. (For his “American Heroes” CD, Sprout wrote an entire song about Franklin, with just one mention of his famous kite experiment.)
What’s amazing about these pioneers is how they were able to figure out the relationships between electricity and magnetism. Two hundred years ago, there were no digitizers to measure electricity, just everyday mechanical objects such as wire (and of poor quality by today’s standards), needles, metal tubes and rods, and a lot of sweat to build their test equipment.
Ampere’s apparatus that he used to discover the magnetic interaction between two current-carrying wires is brilliant. He used a fixed-current-carrying wire placed next to a suspended wire loop to make his observations. Not only that, Ampere and his contemporaries had the ability to translate their physical findings into equations that are now the laws of modern electrical engineering.
I dedicate this song to my father, who inspired me to study electrical engineering because of his interests in CB and ham radio. Dad never heard this song, which was recorded the same day I recorded “Below a Gigahertz.”
“Electrical Heroes” was recorded on October 3, 2007, at Melville Park Studio, Boston, MA.