Hydrology and beyond: The scientific work of August Colding revisited

Dan Rosbjerg*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

31 Downloads (Pure)


August Colding was one of the three pioneers who in the mid-1800s almost simultaneously and independently formulated the first law of thermodynamics, the two others being Robert Mayer and James Joule. This first, significant achievement was followed by a sequence of other ground-breaking discoveries within a broad range of disciplines: Magnetism, steam power, gas production, hydraulics, soil physics, hydrology, heating and ventilation, meteorology, and oceanography. Moreover, he made a significant contribution to the understanding of the spread of cholera. In hydrology, he used evaporation experiments to obtain water balances. Independently, he formulated Darcy's law and was the first to calculate the water table between drainpipes and the piezometric surface in confined aquifers. His main occupation, however, was chief engineer in Copenhagen, where he modernized the city by introducing groundwater-based water supply and building a waterworks delivering pressured, clean water into houses, a gasworks and gas-based street lighting, and a citywide sewage system. Colding has not been as recognized internationally as he might deserve, probably because most of his publications were written in Danish. Even in Denmark, he seems today almost forgotten. This paper highlights his most important scientific contributions, in particular his achievements in hydrology, hydraulics, meteorology, and oceanography.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHydrology and Earth System Sciences
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)4575-4585
Publication statusPublished - 2020


Dive into the research topics of 'Hydrology and beyond: The scientific work of August Colding revisited'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this