Search databasePMCAll DatabasesAssemblyBiocollectionsBioProjectBioSampleBioSystemsBooksClinVarConserved DomainsdbGaPdbVarGeneGenomeGEO DataSetsGEO ProfilesGTRHomoloGeneIdentical Protein internet CatalogNucleotideOMIMPMCPopSetProteinProtein ClustersProtein family members ModelsPubChem BioAssayPubChem CompoundPubChem SubstancePubMedSNPSRAStructureTaxonomyToolKitToolKitAllToolKitBookgh

John B. WestCorresponding author.You are watching: Totticelli offered this to measure up air pressure

The recognition of barometric pressure was a crucial step in the advancement of environmental physiology. In 1644, Evangelista Torricelli described the first mercury barometer in a exceptional letter that had the phrase, “We live submerged at the bottom of an s of the aspect air, which by unquestioned experiments is known to have weight.” This extraordinary understanding seems to have actually come appropriate out of the blue. Less than 10 years before, the good Galileo had given an erroneous explanation for the related difficulty of pump water from a deep well. Previously, Gasparo Berti had filled a very long lead vertical tube through water and showed the a vacuum developed at the top. However, Torricelli to be the an initial to make a mercury barometer and also understand that the mercury was supported by the pressure of the air. Aristotle stated that the air has actually weight, back this to be controversial for part time. Galileo described a an approach of measure the weight of the air in detail, however for reasons that space not clear his result was in error by a variable of around two. Torricelli surmised that the push of the air can be less on mountains, but the an initial demonstration of this to be by Blaise Pascal. The very first air pump was constructed by otto von Guericke, and also this influenced Robert Boyle to bring out his classic experiments that the physiological impacts of reduced barometric pressure. This were turning points in the early background of high-altitude physiology.

You are watching: Totticelli used this to measure air pressure

Torricelli"s an excellent Insight: The ocean of Air

On June 11, 1644, Evangelista Torricelli (1608–1647) (FIGURE 1) wrote a exceptional letter to his friend Michelangelo Ricci, that was a mathematician and likewise a cardinal in Rome. Torricelli self was a mathematician and also physicist, originally from Faenza, however now in Rome. Both guys were part of the extraordinarily effervescent scientific task in Italy in the early and mid-17th century. The letter contained the exorbitant statement, “We live submerged at the bottom that an s of the facet air, i beg your pardon by unquestioned experiment is recognized to have actually weight” (FIGURE 2). This needs to be one of the most dramatic explanation in the early history of atmospheric science, and, therefore, through implication, in the early advancement of high-altitude medicine and physiology. One wonders how many medical and graduate students today appreciate the truth that they room living in ~ the bottom of a sea of air that bears under upon them and is responsible for the barometric pressure. This remarkable understanding apparently came right out that the blue. For example, it eluded the an excellent scientist Galileo, who, as we candlestick see, only a few years before gave one erroneous explanation for related phenomena.


Evangelista Torricelli (1608–1647)

Image indigenous Lezioni d"Evangelista Torricelli and available at Photo is publicly domain.


Portion the the message of Torricelli"s letter to Ricci include the phrase, “We live submerged in ~ the bottom of an s of the element air, i m sorry by unquestioned experiments is well-known to have weight”

Image is from Refs, 5, 8 and also is publicly domain.

Torricelli climate went ~ above to describe how the made the an initial barometer and also how he well-known that it was the load of the wait that sustained the obelisk of mercury. He took a glass pipe ∼2 cubits (∼110–120 cm) long and also filled it with mercury (FIGURE 3). That then put a finger over the end and inverted the tube in a container containing mercury. He witnessed that the mercury dropped until the height over the surface ar in the trough was “a cubit and also a quarter and also an inch besides.” A cubit and also a 4 minutes 1 is probably ∼73 cm, so he reported the height as in the an ar of 76 centimeter of mercury.

Torricelli"s drawing of his barometer in his letter to Ricci

Image is indigenous Ref. 5 and is publicly domain.

Torricelli correctly reasoned the the an are above the mercury included nothing and therefore to be a vacuum. Previous experimenters using water (see below) had actually seen a similar behavior in much much longer water-filled tubes, and it had been suggested that the shaft of liquid was hosted up by the properties of the vacuum above it. Incidentally this is supposedly why Torricelli used two tubes, one with a straightforward blind end and also the other with a small sphere ~ above the end as displayed in number 3. He said that if a vacuum to be responsible because that attracting the mercury, the heights that the columns would certainly be different due to the fact that the distinctions in shape of the finish of the tube would change the nature of the vacuum. However, as figure 3 shows, the heights were the same. Torricelli walk on to argue that the vacuum was irrelevant to maintaining the height of the mercury column. ~ remarking that the room above the mercury included nothing and also therefore can have no attractive effect, he proclaimed that “On the surface of the fluid which is in the basin, over there gravitates a fixed of waiting 50 miles high.” In various other words he plainly saw the it to be the push of the “ocean of air” ~ above the mercury in the trough the was responsible for keeping a column of ∼76 cm.

The really experiment was not done through Torricelli himself but by his partner Vincenzo Viviani (1622–1703). Viviani to be an assistant come Galileo in ~ Arcetri close to Florence from the period of 17 to Galileo"s fatality in 1642, and he went on to modify the first edition of Galileo"s accumulated works. The fact that it to be Viviani who actually lugged out Torricelli"s experiment emphasizes the close link in between Torricelli and Galileo. Torricelli was invited to work-related with Galileo in Arcetri however arrived just a couple of months prior to the latter"s death.

Galileo"s see on the pressure of a Vacuum

There was much interest at the moment in the trouble of raising water native a deep well by method of a pump. This was extensively discussed before Torricelli"s experiment and also it was renowned that it to be not feasible to pump water native a well if the pump was more than ∼9 m above the surface of the water. A associated interest was the actions of siphons, i beg your pardon were offered to deliver water in a pipe end a small hill. In 1630, Giovanni Galliano (1582–1666) had written come Galileo questioning him why a siphon the Galliano had designed to bring water end a hill 21 m high refuse to work. If the tube of the siphon was filled through water by means of a pump, and then the pump was stopped, the water be separate high in the tube and also flowed the end at both ends.

Galileo debated this problem in some detail in his last book Discourses concerning Two brand-new Sciences (4). This was released in 1638 in Leiden, much from Rome. The reason is the Galileo had actually been under house arrest at Arcetri since 1633 since he to be “vehemently doubt of heresy” by the divine Office the the Inquisition. This came about because Galileo said in his previous good book Dialogues worrying the 2 Chief people Systems (3) the the planet circled the sun. In fact, the original sentence was prison, yet this was lessened to home arrest. Galileo to be precluded from posting anything after ~ 1633, but because Leiden in the Netherlands was exterior the affect of the Church, that was feasible to have actually his publication published there.

Discourses concerning Two new Sciences makes fantastic reading. The layout is a discussion in between three people, Salviatti, that is a spokesman for Galileo, and two others, Sagredo and Simplicio, that continually an obstacle Galileo on miscellaneous points. This is the same layout that Galileo offered in Dialogues concerning the 2 Chief world Systems.

Galileo takes increase the concern of why water can not be raised much more than a specific amount native a fine by describing a “thought experiment” depicted in number 4. CABD represents the cross ar of a cylinder one of two people of steel or preferably of glass, hollow inside, and accurately turned. Right into this is presented a perfectly fitting cylinder of wood, represented in cross ar by EGHF, and capable of up and also down motion. A hole is bored through the cylinder to obtain an iron wire moving a hook in ~ the bottom. The conical head at the optimal of the wire renders a perfect fit through the countersunk wooden cylinder. For the experiment, the cylinder is very closely filled v water so the no wait remains, and also weights are added gradually until the water separates and also the weights fall. The weight of the stopper, wire, and also bucket through its components then measure up the force of the vacuum (forza del vacuo).

Galileo"s drawing of the “thought experiment” to measure the pressure of a vacuum

See message for details. Picture is indigenous Ref. 4 and also is publicly domain.

Segredo, among the discussants, then remarks, “Up come this time I had actually been therefore thoughtless that, although i knew a rope . . . If sufficiently long would break by its own weight when organized at the top end, that never developed to me that the exact same thing would occur only much much more easily come a obelisk of water. And really is not that thing which is attractive in the pump a obelisk of water attached in ~ the upper end and stretched more and more until ultimately a allude is reached where the breaks, favor a rope, ~ above account the its excessive weight.” to which Salviati responds, “That is specifically the method it works; this solved elevation the 18 cubits is true for any quantity of water whatever, be the pump huge or small.” In other words, Galileo was reasoning in terms of a pressure to rest the vacuum rather choose a pressure can rest a wire by extending it.

This ar is quoted in ~ some length to emphasize exactly how revolutionary was Torricelli"s new insight. Only some 6 or for this reason years before Torricelli"s experiment, among the best scientists of all time held an entirely different view.

Gasparo Berti"s Experiment v a long Lead Tube

Torricelli"s experiment was revolutionary, yet as so frequently happens in science, it had actually been came before by various other somewhat comparable activities. One of the most necessary of these was a exceptional demonstration by Gasparo Berti (c. 1600–1643), who was one more Renaissance Italian mathematician and also physicist. Unfortunately, the details the Berti"s experiment are not as clear together those that Torricelli"s because the accounts were written number of years later. Indeed, the actual date of the experiment is uncertain yet was probably in between 1639 and 1644. The best account is by Emmanuel Maignan (1601–1676), who taught natural philosophy in a convent in Rome (6).

Maignan very first refers come Berti as “indeed my greatest friend” and then walk on to describe how Berti erected a lengthy lead pipe on the outside wall surface of the tower that his home (FIGURE 5). The length was ∼11 m, and initially Berti fill it through water and sealed it in ~ both ends. The then put the bottom the the pipe in a tank of water and also opened the seal. Some of the water flowed out of the tube, yet much continued to be so the the elevation of the obelisk of water to be ∼10 m. Berti referred to the an are above the water together a vacuum.

Illustration of Gasparo Berti"s experiment making use of a very long lead pipe containing water

See message for details. Picture is from Ref. 7 and also is publicly domain.

A variety of variations the this setup were made. One was to attach a large sphere at the peak of the tube, i m sorry was originally filled with water as well and then became component of the container because that the vacuum. The sphere can be seen in figure 5. The nature of the room above the water developed a good deal that controversy. One experiment to be to ar a bell in the sphere and arrange because that this to it is in struck in part way, because it was argued that sound could not travel through a vacuum. However, there to be no method of supporting the bell so the the sound might not travel along the support. Interesting way although this was a very remarkable experiment, it to be not renowned at the time, and, as shown above, accounts to be written just some year later. There to be never any suggestion that the obelisk of water was supported by waiting pressure.

Weighing the Air

Torricelli"s letter (FIGURE 2) extends the i quoted previously as follows: “We live submerged in ~ the bottom of an ocean of the facet air, i m sorry by unquestioned experiment is well-known to have actually weight, and so much, indeed, that near the surface ar of the planet where that is many dense, it weighs around four-hundredth component of the load of water.” This raises the concern of how these beforehand scientists were able to weigh air.

Torricelli is below referring come a ar in Galileo"s Discourses concerning Two new Sciences wherein Salviati states, “But have the right to you doubt that air has actually weight as soon as you have actually the clear testimony that Aristotle affirming that all elements have weight including air, excepting just fire? As proof of this, the cites the reality that a leather bottle weighs an ext when inflated than when collapsed.” in reality Aristotle"s remarks top top this are exceptionally brief. He claims in De Caelo publication IV.4, 311b, present 6–11, “Earth, then, and bodies in which earth preponderates, have to needs have weight everywhere, when water is heavy anywhere however in earth, and air is heavy when not in water or earth. In that own place each of this bodies has weight excepting fire, even air. That this we have proof in the truth that a bladder as soon as inflated weighs much more than once empty” (1).

In truth Aristotle"s statement that “a bladder once inflated weighs much more than once empty” to be the topic of much subsequent controversy. Even Galileo adhered to up his remarks cited above with the following: “I am inclined to believe that the boost of weight observed in the leather bottle or bladder arises, no from the gravity of the air, however from the many thick vapors mingled with it in these lower regions. To this I would attribute the rise in weight in the leather bottle.”

It is exciting that, today, teacher of elementary physics regularly use an experiment with an inflated balloon to do the point that air has actually weight. There room several examples of these on the internet. In a common demonstration, two inflated toy balloons are suspended at the end of a lengthy stick such together a meter rule, and this is sustained in the center so that it is balanced. One balloon is then burst by putting a match under it, and also the various other balloon tilts the balance downward.

In fact, this is a misleading demonstration because the reason why the intact balloon falls is that it includes air under pressure. If the 2 balloons room inflated with air at regular atmospheric pressure, deflating one balloon will certainly not change the balance. The reason is the a balloon at regular pressure, such together a thin plastic bag that has been partially inflated, receives support by buoyancy indigenous the air around it, i beg your pardon cancels the weight of the air inside it.

Galileo presumably interpreted this, although the does not show up to state it. What he does execute is describe in detail a method for measuring the weight of the air. This is included in Discourses concerning Two brand-new Sciences (4). Basically, the takes an empty party containing air at common pressure and weighs it. He then blows air into it so that the press is increased and also weighs that again. A second bottle filled v water is then linked to the first bottle so that the wait escaping indigenous the an initial bottle displaces water indigenous the second, and the volume that the displaced water is measured. Currently he has an exact measurement of the load of the air introduced into the very first bottle and also its volume measured native the displaced water. This permits him to determine the weight per unit volume or, as he in reality calls it, the details gravity of the air. In ~ the finish of the description, he claims that this enables him to determine “definitely how plenty of times heavier water is than air, and we chandelier find, contrary to the opinion that Aristotle, that this is no ten times, however as our experiment shows more nearly four hundred times.”

The last component of this declare is surprising since the actual value is ∼800 times at sea level at a temperature of 20°C. In various other words, Galileo"s figure is also low by a aspect of about two. The procedure is explained in such detail that the is complicated to understand just how such a big error to be incurred. One wonders whether this too was in component a “thought experiment” rather than something actually brought out together described.

The diminish of Barometric press With Altitude

In his letter, Torricelli provides an oblique reference to the fact that barometric pressure might decrease through altitude. First, he states, “Those who have written about twilight, moreover, have observed the the vaporous invisible air rises above us around 50 or 54 miles.” This statement suggests that, over this altitude, there is no air, so that as we strategy the altitude the push will fall. Torricelli goes on come say, “I perform not, however, believe its height is as great as this, because if the were, I could show that the vacuum would need to offer much greater resistance than it does.” Here, Torricelli is presumably suggesting that if the air prolonged as high as 50–54 miles, the height of the pillar of mercury in his barometer would be greater. He climate continues, “The weight described by Galileo uses to wait in very low places, where men and also animals live, whereas that on the tops of high mountains begins to be patent rare and of much less weight 보다 four-hundredth component of the weight of water.” In other words, Torricelli is certainly saying that barometric pressure decreases with altitude.

The identify proof of the loss in barometric pressure with altitude is usually ascribed to Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). He to be an infant prodigy, specifically in the area that mathematics, yet he additionally did comprehensive work on push in fluids. Students room taught Pascal"s Law, which says that the push at any suggest in a liquid is same transmitted in every directions. Indeed, as much as now, we have actually been concentrating top top the pundit ferment in Italy in the early and mid-17th century. However, French researchers such as Pascal and also René Descartes (1596–1650) were likewise extremely active.

Pascal had actually the idea of acquisition a barometer up the Puy-de-Dôme near Clermont in main France whereby he was born. Quite than do this himself, the asked his brother-in-law Florin Perier, who lived in Clermont, to carry out the experiment. The outcomes were subsequently sent out to Pascal in a exciting letter by Perier dated September 22, 1648. Note that this is only 4 years after Torricelli"s letter come Ricci, and also this short period is further evidence of the lively intellectual activity of the time.

Perier explained the job in significant detail. A team of people met early on in the morning in a garden in Clermont and filled number of mercury barometers, which offered a pressure of ∼710 mmHg. One barometer was left in the garden whereby it was observed all day by the Reverent dad Chastin who reported the there were no transforms in the height of the mercury. However, top top the summit of Puy-de-Dôme, the altitude of i m sorry was described as 500 fathoms above the garden, the mercury had a elevation of only ∼625 mmHg. This meant that there to be a loss in barometric push of ∼12%. The result was thought about so impressive that the experiment was repeated a number of times. In fact, Perier ultimately ascended to the summit again and found the very same result.

Perier to be so impressed by the results of this experiment that he then took the barometer increase the tower of the cathedral in Clermont to view whether there would certainly be a measureable adjust of press as a result of this much smaller ascent. Indeed, there was a loss of ∼5 mmHg, which offered him great satisfaction. Perier"s letter of 1648 come Pascal is for this reason beautifully written that it is embarrassing come state that there is part doubt about its authenticity (6). Some historians have completed that Pascal"s inquiry to Perier to lug out the experiments can not have been as early as November 1647 together he claimed. Other commentators have said that the totality idea of the experiment come from Descartes fairly than Pascal.

Torricelli"s experiment had an enormous impact on the clinical community, not just in Italy but throughout Europe. This was in contrast to the experiment that Gasparo Berti described earlier, which result in tiny interest and in reality was only reported number of years later. However, Torricelli"s exploration had rapid repercussions.

Demonstration the the substantial Force that Is developed by the Barometric Pressure

One the the most colorful and best known subsequent experiments was carried out in 1654 by otto von Guericke (1602–1686), that was the mayor of the city the Magdeburg in main Germany (FIGURE 6). He has the difference of do the very first air pump. That did this by editing a water pump the previously had been provided for fighting fires. Von Guericke then built two copper hemispheres that fitted together so accurately the they to be airtight when they to be evacuated. Once he pumped the air out of the hemispheres, which had actually diameters of ∼50 cm, the force developed by the push of the air to be so good that two groups of steeds were can not to pull the hemispheres apart. As deserve to be expected, this dramatic demonstrate provoked widespread interest.

Demonstration by rose oil von Guericke that the effort to separate two evacuated copper hemispheres by two groups of horses

Image is native and is public domain.

It is amazing to placed some number on von Guericke"s experiment. First, why did he require two teams of horses? One team would certainly have given the very same result, although the demonstration would certainly perhaps have been much less arresting. In fact, one team of steeds would have actually resulted in the exact same tensile force on the hemispheres if they had been fastened to a solid structure such as a huge wall. The second team simply noted a counterforce that otherwise would have been noted by a wall.

Another interesting suggest is how close did the horses involved separating the 2 hemispheres? probably not close at all. If we assume together a an initial approximation that von Guericke"s pump was capable of removing every one of the air, the pressure holding the 2 hemispheres together was same to the barometric press times the area of a circle of 50-cm diameter. Making use of English units and also taking the radius as 10 in., the area that the one is πr2 or 3.14 × 100, that is 314 in.2. The barometric press is 14.7 lb./in.2, providing a full force of ∼46,000 lb. Weight. In SI units, the area the the circle is 0.0625 m2, and also the full force is ∼10,300 N.

Next, just how much force can be emerged by a horse? over there is a vain in part rural locations known together “horse pulling” in which the best force occurred by a steed is measure up by a dynamometer. A medium sized horse can pull ∼1,500 lb. Weight. Therefore, it would certainly take 46,000/1,500 horses, that is ∼30 horses in one team to different the hemispheres. Von Guericke"s team that 8 horses on one side (FIGURE 6) was thus far much less than required. The course, if the air in the hemispheres might only be pumped under to half the regular pressure, the force required to separate them would be lessened to one-half.

Subsequent researches of the effects of reducing the Barometric Pressure

One human who was considerably influenced through the news that von Guericke"s demonstration to be Robert Boyle (1627–1691) in England. He read around the new pump in a book by Schott (7) and also realized the potential of making clinical studies in one experimentally produced low-pressure environment. That then persuaded his excellent colleague Robert Hooke (1635–1703) to do an wait pump that can evacuate a glass sphere into which small animals and also other objects might be introduced. This was impossible with the steel hemispheres supplied by von Guericke. Boyle"s experiments to be initially described in his influential book New experiments Physico-Mechanicall, touching the feather of the Air and also its Effects (2). This publication significant the beginning of a new era that what us now recognize as high-altitude physiology (10).


No conflicts of interest, jae won or otherwise, are asserted by the author(s).


1. AristotleDe Caelo publication IV, 311b, lines 6–11. Interpreted by share JL, Wallis HB.Oxford, The Clarendon Press, 1922. 2. Boyle1660 new Experiments Physico-Mechanicall, touching the spring of the Air, and its Effects. Oxford: H. Room for T. Robinson, 1660 3. Galileo G.

See more: ‘ Christ Has Died Christ Has Risen Christ Will Come Again ’, Memorial Acclamation

Dialogo dei early massimi sistemi del mondo , translated by Stillman D.Los Angeles, CA: Univ. The California Press, 1967 4. Galileo G.Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche, intorno à early nuove scienze , analyzed by Crew H, di Salvio A.New York: Macmillan, 1914, p. 74–75 5. Loria G, Vassura G.See more: Which finest Describes The Asymptote Of an Exponential role Of The form F(X) = Bx?Opere di Evangelista Torricelli . Faenza, Italy: G. Montanari, 1919, vol. III, p. 1861919 6. Middleton WEK.The background of the Barometer. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1964 7. Schott GP.Gasparis Schotti Mechanica Hydraulico-Pneumatica. Francofurti ad Moenum: Sumptu Heredum Joannis Godefridi Schönwetteri Bibliopol. Frankfurt, Germany: Henricus Pigrin, 1657 8. Spiers IHB, Spiers AGH.The physical Treatises that Pascal; the Equilibrium the Liquids and also the load of the massive of the Air (1663). Brand-new York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1937 9. Von Guericke O.The brand-new (So-Called) Magdeburg experiments of rose oil von Guericke. Dordrecht: Kluwer scholastic Publishers, 1994 10. West JB.Robert Boyle"s landmark publication of 1660 with the very first experiments on rarified air. J Appl Physiol98: 31–39, 2005