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An appreciated practitioner

A throwback on the 100th death anniversary: Adolf Ferdinand Weinhold developed the “Weinholdsche Bottle” and introduced the lecture of electrical engineering in Chemnitz

Adolf Ferdinand Weinhold – a name not only known to many on the Campus of Chemnitz University of Technology as the tallest building of the university already bears this name since 1986. Physicist and chemist Adolf Ferdinand Weinhold worked in the forerunner institution of Chemnitz University from 1861 till 1912 and initiated the development of the Electrical Engineering Department.

Weinhold was a scientist, who did not want to replace the classic lecture format but at least complement it with experimental lectures. But Weinhold had a substantial problem: he lacked vivid experiments and demonstration material for his lectures. Described as being very manually skilled and surefooted in the field of glass blowing, without further ado, he manufactured the necessary equipment himself. In order to store liquefied gases he developed a double-walled glass bottle and pumped down the air between the exterior and interior wall. The vacuum prevented the heat exchange with the environment and could thus hold low temperatures for several hours. In 1881 Weinhold described this innovation in his publication “Physikalische Demonstrationen”. These works already came out in his doctorate publication “Messung hoher Temperaturen” in 1873 in Leipzig. But Weinhold missed the chance to prosecute the patent - he was probably too much of a scientist to think about commercial use.

The effect of the vacuum glass bottle, Weinhold described, is often connected with the thermos bottle, which is not quite right. The same applies to the innovation of Sir James Dewar, who worked as a professor in Cambridge and London and used in 1874 a double-walled metal vessel, and later on a mirrored vacuum glass vessel also for the storage of liquefied gases. Both vessels were solely developed for laboratory uses. The real inventor of the thermos bottle used at home is the glass blower and technician Reinhold Burger from Glasshütte, who prosecuted the patent in 1903.

About Adolf Ferdinand Weinhold:

Born in Zwenkau on May 19, 1841, Weinhold studied in Leipzig and Göttingen from 1857 till 1861. The twenty-year-old obtained an assistant position at the agricultural experimental station in Chemnitz. He became physics teacher in 1864 on trial and in 1865 employed at the Königliche Höhere Gewerbschule and the students appreciated his practical oriented teaching methods. The honorary title of professor was awarded to him in 1870. In Chemnitz Weinhold introduced the lecture of electrical engineering as separate subject. He is author of several teaching books. He was one of the initiators of the first public power generators based on three-phase current in Chemnitz, Dresden, Leipzig, and Plauen. Weinhold was married and had two sons, one of them also becoming a professor in Chemnitz. On July 2nd, 1917, Weinhold died in Chemnitz. His inheritance and a replica of the “Weinholdsche Bottle” are in the university archive of the Chemnitz University.

Matthias Fejes
03.07.2017

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