Johann Jakob Balmer


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(1825–1898) Swiss mathematician

Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, Balmer was not a professional scientist but worked as a school teacher in Basel from 1859. In 1885 he discovered that there was a simple mathematical formula that gave the wavelengths of the spectral lines of hydrogen – the Balmer series. This formula proved to be of great importance in atomic spectroscopy and in developing the atomic theory. Balmer arrived at his result purely from empirical evidence and was unable to explain why it yielded correct answers. Not until the further development of the atomic theory by Niels Bohr and others was this possible.

Subjects: Science and Mathematics.

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