Otto Von Guericke - Encyclopedia




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OTTO VON GUERICKE (1602-1686), German experimental philosopher, was born at Magdeburg, in Prussian Saxony, on the 10th of November 1602. Having studied law at Leipzig, Helmstadt and Jena, and mathematics, especially geometry and mechanics, at Leiden, he visited France and England, and in 1636 became engineer-in-chief at Erfurt. In 1627 he was elected alderman of Magdeburg, and in 1646 mayor of that city and a magistrate of Brandenburg. His leisure was devoted to scientific pursuits, especially in pneumatics. Incited by the discoveries of Galileo, Pascal and Torricelli, he attempted the, creation of a vacuum. He began by experimenting with a pump on water placed in a barrel, but found that when the water was drawn off the air permeated the wood. He then took a globe of copper fitted with pump and stopcock, and discovered that he could pump out air as well as water. Thus he became the inventor of the air-pump (1650). He illustrated his discovery before the emperor Ferdinand III. at the imperial diet which assembled at Regensburg in 1654, by the experiment of the "Magdeburg hemispheres." Taking two hollow hemispheres of copper, the edges of which fitted nicely together, he exhausted the air from between them by means of his pump, and it is recorded that thirty horses, fifteen back to back, were unable to pull them asunder until the air was readmitted. Besides investigating other phenomena connected with a vacuum, he constructed an electrical machine which depended on the excitation of a rotating ball of sulphur; and he made successful researches in astronomy, predicting the periodicity of the return of comets. In 1681 he gave up office, and retired to Hamburg, where he died on the 11th of May 1686.

His principal observations are given in his work, Experimenta nova, ut vocant, Magdeburgica de vacuo spatio (Amsterdam, 1672). He is also the author of a Geschichte der Belagerung and Eroberung von Magdeburg. See F. W. Hoffmann, Otto von Guericke (Magdeburg, 1874).

'Gueridon, a small table to hold a lamp or vase, supported by a tall column or a human or mythological figure. This piece of furniture, often very graceful and elegant, originated in France towards the middle of the 17th century. In the beginning the table was supported by a negro or other exotic figure, and there is some reason to believe that it took its name from the generic appellation of the young African groom or "tiger," who was generally called "Gueridon," or as we should say in English "Sambo." The swarthy figure and brilliant costume of the "Moor" when reproduced in wood and picked out in colours produced a very striking effect, and when a small table was supported on the head by the upraised hands the idea of passive service was suggested with completeness. The gueridon is still occasionally seen in something approaching its original form; but it had no sooner been introduced than the artistic instinct of the French designer and artificer converted it into a far worthier object. By the death of Louis XIV. there were several hundreds of them at Versailles, and within a generation or two they had taken an infinity of forms - columns, tripods, termini and mythological figures. Some of the simpler and more artistic forms were of wood carved with familiar decorative motives and gilded. Silver, enamel, and indeed almost any material from which furniture can be made, have been used for their construction. A variety of small "occasional" tables are now called in French gueridons. 'Guerin, Jean Baptiste Paulin (1783-18s5), French painter, was born at Toulon, on the 25th of March 1783, of poor parents. He learnt, as a lad, his father's trade of a locksmith, whilst at the same time he followed the classes of the free school of art. Having sold some copies to a local amateur, Guerin started for Paris, where he came under the notice of Vincent, whose counsels were of material service. In 1810 Guerin made his first appearance at the Salon with some portraits, which had a certain success. In 1812 he exhibited "Cain after the murder of Abel" (formerly in Luxembourg), and, on the return of the Bourbons, was much employed in works of restoration and decoration at Versailles. His "Dead Christ" (Cathedral, Baltimore) obtained a medal in 1817, and this success was followed up by a long series of works, of which the following are the more noteworthy: "Christ on the knees of the Virgin" (1819); "Anchises and Venus" (1822) (formerly in Luxembourg); "Ulysses and Minerva" (1824) (Musee de Rennes); "the Holy Family" (1829) (Cathedral, Toulon); and "Saint Catherine" (1838)(St Roch). In his treatment of subject, Guerin attempted to realize rococo graces of conception, the liveliness of which was lost in the strenuous effort to be correct. His chief successes were attained by portraits, and those of Charles Nodier and the Abbe Lamennais became widely popular. He died on the 19th of January 1855.

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