What is a Gauss?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

Named for German mathematician Carl Frederich Gauss, the gauss is a unit of magnetic field measurement. Often abbreviated as G when referred to in official publications and in scientific formulas, one gauss is understood to equate to one Maxwell per square centimeter. The essential idea behind this measurement is to be able to quantify the amount of magnetic flux density within a magnetic field.

The gauss is a measurement of magnetic field strength.
The gauss is a measurement of magnetic field strength.

Along with being an excellent mathematician, Gauss was also renowned as a top German physicist. While investigating the phenomenon of the creation and manipulation of magnetic energy, Gauss developed his formula for the measurement of changes within a magnetic field, including the identification of a base unit that would help to identify the degree of flux present at a given time and under specific conditions. As is true with many scientific discoveries, his name came to be the common name for that identifying unit.

It is important to make the distinction that a gauss relates only to the rate of flux within the magnetic density of a field. A separate unit of measurement, known as the oersted, is employed when the intensity of the magnetic field is the subject under consideration. While similar in nature, each unit helps to provide different information about the function and form of the field under consideration.

The gauss can be utilized in the measurement of the flux density of just about any material that is understood to possess a magnetic field. For example, a magnet made from iron and of a size that would fit into a hand would probably have a unit measurement of 100 gauss. In comparison, a large industrial size electromagnet would most likely account for a measurement of roughly 15,000 gauss. The method for determining the measurement is considered to be so accurate that physicists can even use the gauss to calculate a measurement for various stars, based on information about the magnetic field related to the star.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


Good explanation about the magnets. However, I feel it would have been much better if would have given this with some examples and calculation referring to some actual situations. regards, Gnaneshwar

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