What Scientific Measurement Scale Was Originally Inverted From Its Present State?
Celsius is a unit of measurement for temperature, named after the Swedish astronomer Anders Celsius. Although it would be easy enough to say Anders Celsius invented the scale, it’s really named in his honor as it was changed just before his death in 1744.
Why was it changed? For reasons understood most clearly by Celsius himself and few (if any) others in the scientific community, he insisted on setting the scale so that 0 °C was the temperature of boiling water and 100 °C was the freezing point of water. If you find the idea of the scale going down to indicate increasing heat and going up to indicate decreasing heat an uncomfortable one to contemplate, you’re certainly not alone.
Not only does it seem strange to us in the present to think of a rising temperature reading as indicative of a falling actual temperature, Celsius’ contemporaries felt the same. In 1743, French physicist Jean-Pierre Christin inverted the scale to its present configuration, wherein water freezes at 0 °C and boils at 100 °C. Other scientists (notably, Swedish botanist Carl Linnaeus in 1744) quickly adopted the new and more palatable arrangement, and over two centuries later, we’re still using the scale in such a fashion.
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