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I've added a reference to the Bunsen-Kirchoff Award. I put it in the general bio at the top, because I did not see a better place for it in the article. Maybe another section should be created for this mention, but it seemed silly to create a new section for this one sentence. Please feel free to modify it as you see fit. thanks, -Tzf (talk) 17:39, 1 October 2008 (UTC)
In the 19th century Kirchoff was a professor at the University of Heidelberg and became interested in the phenomenon of diffraction of light. In his first work in the area, he gave a full demonstration of Huygens principle, noting that the version of Huygens was erroneous. Later, with his fellow, the chemist Robert Bunsen, he developed a very careful study of the spectra of light emitted by various elements, using a diffraction grating. They made a startling discovery: that the elements, and actually, all substances can be characterized by the spectrum of light they emit. This alone would make him one of the greatest physicists in History. But then he had another great idea: he pointed his diffraction gratings at the stars, and found through the spectra, that they were made of the same elements found on Earth (there were some elements not yet known on Earth, which he then discovered). Namely, he showed that our Physics and Chemistry are the same of the stars.
Later he also made major discoveries about the blackbody radiation (concept, by the way, invented by him). But this is getting too long. A large volume is needed to describe the great work of Gustav Kirchhoff.
Notice that even the Kirchhoff's circuit laws the way they are taught in high school, are a very simplified version of his work. Kirchoff made important advances in topology to prove the rules. To get an idea of the level of his work on circuits, a good place is:
Bamberg, Sternberg, "A Course in Mathematics for Students of Physics", Volume 2, Chapters 12, 13, 14, 15.