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A self-taught genius

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Oliver Heaviside (1850-1925) was a reclusive figure, who did most of his research at home. His recognition as a scientific figure came about from his work on an important scientific text: 'Maxwell's Treatise on Electricity and Magnetism'. Heaviside applied Maxwell's theories to the practical problem of sending an electric signal down a wire, central to the growing telecommunications industry. Over long distances, such as underwater cables, the speed and clarity of the signal was compromised due to the effects of induction. Heaviside proposed that distortion could be reduced by adding induction coils to 'load' the cable. Among Heaviside's many other scientific achievements, he correctly predicted the existence of a layer of ionised gas high in the Earth's atmosphere, which permits radio waves to follow the curvature of the Earth. In mathematics, he developed the Heaviside Step Function, equal to 0 for a negative argument, but 1 for a positive argument, whose characteristic step-like shape can be used to describe a current or signal being turned on.

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Communications Engineer  (Volume:5 ,  Issue: 4 )