Oliver Heaviside

Oliver Heaviside was born on May 18, 1850 in Camden Town, London.  Heaviside became interested in electrical science because his uncle was an electrical scientist.  He got his start as a telegraphic operator.  He taught himself Morse Code and studied books about science.  It was during this time that he began losing his hearing.

Picture Courtesy of University of Adelaide

An example of the Telegrapher's Equation


After quitting this job he started researching electrical science on his own time at home. Heaviside was very good at math equations and used them to explain electric currents.  He invented “operational calculus” and the “telegrapher’s equation.”  Another deaf scientist, John Ambrose Fleming, was able to use the things Heaviside discovered in his work.

He was the first to explain the continuous movement of electrons.  He was also the first to predict that as a charge’s speed increases so does the mass.

Picture Courtesy of Chemistry Land

Picture Courtesy of the Psychology Press

Picture Courtesy of the English Mechanic

Heaviside did not have many friends.  He liked to be alone. When he was alone, he wrote many papers that appeared in several different magazines such as The English Mechanic and Philosophical Magazine.  His most important discoveries were his theories and formulas about telephones.

Heaviside thought there was a layer of the atmosphere that would reflect radio waves.  This would allow people to make farther calls.  He was right! The layer of the atmosphere was named the Kennelly-Heaviside layer.  Now we call it the ionosphere.

Picture Courtesy of the National Weather Service


Heaviside died on February 3, 1925 in Paignton, Devonshire.


American Institute of Electrical Engineers

Faraday Medal     

Honorary doctorate from the University of Gottingen



Web Links


Lang, H. G., & Meath-Lang, B. (1995). Oliver Heaviside.  In A Biographical Dictionary: Deaf Persons in the Arts and Sciences
(pp.182-185). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.