September 16 marks the passing of Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit. Fahrenheit was a physicist and glassblower who invented the alcohol and mercury thermometers. He is also the person responsible for the Fahrenheit temperature scale. This was a major marketing ploy, namely: invent a thermometer and promote a temperature scale which is incorporated into the device. If you wanted his new device, then you had to use his new calibration scale.
Fahrenheit has widely been replaced by Celsius in most countries and for most applications. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the Celsius scale was phased in by governments around the world as part of the move to standardize on metric measurements. The US effort was mainly voluntary. As it turned out, The Yanks seem stuck (one might say “frozen”) on the F scale.
Today, the F scale is primarily used in the United States, which does not care what other folks do to measure temperature. The US is not alone as the F scale is also used in such “major countries” as the Cayman Islands, Palau, Bahamas and Belize. While other branches of science use the Celsius scale, U.S. meteorologists continue to use the Fahrenheit scale for weather forecasting and reporting. Canadian meteorologists sometimes use the Fahrenheit scale alongside the Celsius scale.
Supporters of the Fahrenheit scale note that a degree on the Fahrenheit scale is the temperature change that the average person can detect. Personally, we doubt that the average person can reliably sense the difference between 70 degrees vs 71 degrees on the F scale. Perhaps, we are just not “sensitive” enough.
Medical thermometers use the Fahrenheit scale. Normal human body temperature is considered to be 98.6 degree Fahrenheit, also known as ‘blood heat’. Of course, it is otherwise if you are just a really “cool” guy.
3 thoughts on “A real cool guy with a hot new scale: Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit (September 16th)”
Some of us, just to be irritating, say ‘centigrade’ rather than ‘Celsius’. As you suggest, it’s all a matter of degree really…
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Excellent comment. Thank you.
I grew up with F temperatures and now we have C temps. When we go to the US in the winter I am totally confused. But I keep my car display on C so that I know what I will be getting when I step out of it.
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