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Portrait of Oersted Oersted, Hans Christian (1777-1851)

Hans Oersted discovered that an electric current creates a magnetic field, making electromagnetism the key to modern communication.

Oersted spent little time at school as a child, but managed to gain a degree in pharmacy at Copenhagen University. He began working as a pharmacist, but his true passion was physics. He toured Europe for two years studying science, then returned home to give popular public lectures on the subject.

He began a quiet revolution as Professor of Physics at Copenhagen University in 1806, helping bring Danish science up to the international standards reached by other countries. He also founded the Danish Society for the Promotion of Natural Science.

Oersted made his breakthrough experiment, in front of a group of unimpressed students, in 1820. There were no sparks and no explosion, just a slight wobble of a compass needle, but it set his heart racing and was enough to prove his theory.

fun and games

Can you beat our games? Explode equipment to see what's inside, hear the changing sounds of telecommunications, see how telecommunications designs have changed over time or send an e-postacard.

what's on

The UK's first permanent gallery dedicated to the history of information and communication technologies opens in the new Information Age gallery at London’s Science Museum.

audio history

Take a trip down memory lane with extracts of the interviews which have been recorded as part of the Connected Earth oral history programme.

featured story

100 years of automatic switching!
In 1912 the GPO installed Britain's first automatic telephone exchange in Epsom.

Discover the early days of the telephone...