Today marks the birthday of Hans Christian Ørsted, the man who discovered that electricity affected magnetic fields. Or, in other words, the principles on which great things were built and which now (literally) power our civilisation.
The Guardian's article, 'Hans Christian Ørsted gets Google Doodled', is a great read if you knew nothing about him.
Here's a taster snippet:
Right. Who's got 232 candles for the birthday cake?
Probably not even the physics geeks remember much about Hans Christian Ørsted, although Google's Doodle logo illustrates his key discovery. That is, if you run a current through a wire – in this case, from the battery at the front – then the electricity creates a magnetic field, which will deflect a compass needle.
Thus the study of electromagentism was born, and it's the basis of a lot of modern life: it led to the development of electricity generators and transformers. Remember that next time you flick a light switch.