Thursday, June 1, 2017

Newton's Temperature Scale

  The thermoscope, a bulb containing air with a long tube that was immersed in water, was developed by Galileo and others to measure temperature during the first half of the 17th Century. Boyle studied similar "weather-glasses" and introduced the hermetically sealed thermometer in England by 1665. In 1701 Newton anonymously published an article, Scala graduum caloris, which described a temperature scale ranging from the freezing point of water to that of a fire hot enough to make iron glow. An English translation of Newton's article can be found in Magie, A Source Book in Physics, p. 225.

Newton's temperature scale has a geometric series and an arithmetic series associated with it. The geometric series corresponds to the temperatures and the arithmetic series is associated with cooling times.

 "This table was constructed by the help of a thermometer and of heated iron. With the thermometer I found the measure of all the heats up to that at which lead melts and by the hot iron I found the measure of the other heats. For the heat which the hot iron communicates in a given time to cold bodies which are near it, that is, the heat which the iron loses in a given time, is proportional to the whole heat of the iron. And so, if the times of cooling are taken equal, the heats will be in a geometrical progression and consequently can easily be found with a table of logarithms."

After finding a number of temperatures with the aid of a thermometer, Newton describes how the hot iron was used.

"...I heated a large enough block of iron until it was glowing and taking it from the fire with a forceps while it was glowing I placed it at once in a cold place where the wind was constantly blowing; and placing on it little pieces of various metals and other liquefiable bodies, I noted the times of cooling until all these bodies lost their fluidity and hardened, and until the heat of the iron became equal to the heat of the human body. Then by assuming that the excess of the heat of the iron and of the hardening bodies above the heat of the atmosphere, found by the thermometer, were in geometrical progression when the times were in arithmetical progression, all heats were determined."

Newton's temperature scale can be constructed mathematically as follows where I've noted some corresponding temperatures on the Fahrenheit temperature scale for comparison.

The temperature point between the melting point of wax and the boiling point of water is an average. I used the geometric average which works best. One can put together a table as follows to compare the Fahrenheit temperatures with the index number, k, above.

A graphical comparison shows that the logs are fairly linear. Using 66°F for the temperature difference gave the best fit for human body temperature at the lower left of the plot.

The slope of the fitted line can be used to convert Farenheit temperatures to points on Newton's scale.

Newton's law of cooling can be in be expressed as the difference between the temperature of an object at some time and the ambient temperature being proportional to an exponential term involving time. This can to shown to be equivalent to the differential form of the law.

Supplemental (Jun 1): Leurechon Thermometer (1627)

Supplemental (Jun 2): 65°F gives a better fit for body temperature. Was this the ambient temperature at which the experiments were done? It's doubtful there was a standard temperature yet in Newton's time. For more on the history of early thermometers see Bolton, Evolution of the Thermometer, 1592-1743.

Supplemental (Jun 2): The average of the freezing point of water and body temperature is (32+98.6)/2= 65.3. Did this originate with Accademia del Cimento?

Supplemental (Jun 4): Corrected conversion formula for k.

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