The Celsius temperature scale



During the Enlightenment, Sweden was finally able to catch up with the rest of Europe when it comes to technology, science etc. Anders Celsius was one of those who helped to turn the tide.


When Anders Celsius was a young student, there were a large variety of thermometers with different scales. Some were respectable and easy to use and some were less respectable and harder to use. Considering this, Celsius realised the necessity of an international scale that could be adopted by all countries. After years of hard work, he came up with predecessor to the scale that today is recognised as the Celsius temperature scale. Although he was the one that came up with this scale, Carl Linnaeus and other famous individuals were the ones that helped with its worldwide recognition.


His version of the Celsius scale differed a bit from the one we use today. It was reverse of today’s scale, with the boiling point of water being zero and the freezing point being one hundred degrees.


So what is it that is unique with the Celsius scale?


The Celsius scale is quite simple to apply and to understand. It is ideal to use whenever water is present, since its fixed points are the freezing and boiling points of water. And in our daily schedule, water is always present. Our body consists of water, we use water for food preparation and water is everywhere, no matter where we go. Water is the key to survival.


To be honest, I do not consider it as an intellectual achievement to construct it. The intellectual achievement was something else. Nowadays, the Kelvin scale is the SI base unit for temperature and one of the seven units that all other SI units derive from. However, the Celsius scale is bound to the Kelvin scale, their degrees have the same magnitude and are exactly equal to each other. This is what makes the Celsius scale such an intellectual achievement.


Today, the Celsius scale is commonly used throughout the world for basically all purposes, with exception for the United States and a few other countries. These countries do still use the Fahrenheit scale. Some specialist fields (astrophysics etc.) do instead use the closely related Kelvin scale. In some countries, e.g. the UK, the Celsius scale is simply referred to as the Centigrade (Latin: “hundred steps”).


At the age of forty-two, Anders Celsius died of tuberculosis, a terrible disease that was very common during these days. He left behind many theses and long writings within astronomy and I think that if Anders Celsius had continued to live, he might have been known for more than “just” the Celsius scale. Or what do you think?


For more information concerning Anders Celsius and his well-known temperature scale, please visit these links:


Postat av: Erik B.

Great article Olof!

You take up something very important when you talk about different scales, such as Kelvin and Fahrenheit. You describe in your text that Anders Celsius invented the Celsius thermometer, and the purpose was to make a wordly common scale. Almost the whole world do now have Celsius, but as you say, the US. is a big country which are using Fahrenheit. Why is that so? Well, I've not been reading very much about that subject, but I guess it comes from their conservative way of thinking. What do you think?

2011-03-29 @ 18:47:03
Postat av: Olof

Indeed a question worthy a try to answer.

To be honest, I do not really now why USA still use Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit is still used for weather forecasts and food cooking in the States and some other countries. I think that they use Fahrenheit because that is what they have done for many years, as you say. When most other countries changed to the Celsius scale, these countries chose to stick to the Fahrenheit scale. Scientists in these countries do of course use Celsius or Kelvin in their work today.

I do not have a real answer but I hope it helps!

Thanks for the comment!

2011-03-31 @ 18:42:26

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