A bolometer is a device for measuring the power of incident electromagnetic radiation via the heating of a material with a temperature-dependent electrical resistance. It was invented in 1878 by the American astronomer Samuel Pierpont Langley.

The first bolometer used by Langley consisted of two platinum strips covered with lampblack. One strip was shielded from radiation and one exposed to it. The strips formed two branches of a Wheatstone bridge which was fitted with a sensitive galvanometer and connected to a battery. Electromagnetic radiation falling on the exposed strip would heat it and change its resistance. By 1880, Langley's bolometer was refined enough to detect thermal radiation from a cow a quarter of a mile away. This radiant-heat detector is sensitive to differences in temperature of one hundred-thousandth of a degree Celsius (0.00001 C).

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