France

Paul Langevin and the Langevin Dynamics

Paul Langevin and the Langevin Dynamics

On January 23, 1872, French physicist Paul Langevin was born. He is best known for having developed Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation. Being a public opponent against fascism in the 1930s resulted in his arrest and consequently he was held under house arrest by the Vichy government for most of the war. Langevin was also the first to explain (1905) the effects of paramagnetism and diamagnetism (the weak attraction or repulsion…
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Abbot Suger and the Birth of the Gothic Style

Abbot Suger and the Birth of the Gothic Style

On January 13, 1151, French abbot, statesman, historian and one of the earliest patrons of Gothic architecture, Suger passed away. The eastern end of the Basilica Church of St. Denis, built by Abbot Suger and completed in 1144, is often cited as the first truly Gothic building, as it draws together many of architectural forms which had evolved from Romanesque and typify the Gothic style. “The new chevet being joined to the narthex,…
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Camille Jordan and the Cours d’Analyse.

Camille Jordan and the Cours d’Analyse.

On January 5, 1838, French mathematician Marie Ennemond Camille Jordan was born. Jordan is known both for his foundational work in group theory and for his influential Cours d’analyse. “[I was advised] to read Jordan’s ‘Cours d’analyse’; and I shall never forget the astonishment with which I read that remarkable work, the first inspiration for so many mathematicians of my generation, and learnt for the first time as I read it what…
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Geneviève Thiroux d’Arconville and the Chemistry of Putrefaction

Geneviève Thiroux d’Arconville and the Chemistry of Putrefaction

On December 23, 1805, Marie-Geneviève-Charlotte Thiroux d’Arconville, née d’Arlus, passed away, who was referred to as Geneviève Thiroux d’Arconville. She was a French writer, translator and naturalist. As a researcher in the field of chemistry, she became known for her studies on decay processes. Her work represented basic research on decomposition processes. She also published, anonymously throughout, numerous philosophical, literary and historical writings as well as translations. Further manuscripts, which she had compiled in twelve volumes,…
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Jean-Henri Fabre – The Virgil of Insects

Jean-Henri Fabre – The Virgil of Insects

On December 22, 1821, French entomologist Jean-Henri Fabre was born. Being a prolific author, his greatest achievement lies in the polularization of insect natural history. Victor Hugo dubbed him “the insects’ Homer” and Edmond Rostand named him the “Virgil of insects.” Darwin cited him as “an incomparable observer.” “Book-knowledge is a poor resource … In many cases, ignorance is a good thing: the mind retains its freedom of investigation and does not stray…
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Hector Berlioz and the Symphonie Fantastique

Hector Berlioz and the Symphonie Fantastique

On December 11, 1803, French romantic composer Hector Berlioz was born. He is best known for his compositions Symphonie fantastique and Grande messe des morts (Requiem). Berlioz made significant contributions to the modern orchestra with his Treatise on Instrumentation. He specified huge orchestral forces for some of his works, and conducted several concerts with more than 1,000 musicians. “Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.” — Hector…
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Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and his Work on Gases

Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and his Work on Gases

On December 6, 1778, French chemist and physicist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac was born. He is known mostly for two laws related to gases, and for his work on alcohol-water mixtures, which led to the degrees Gay-Lussac used to measure alcoholic beverages in many countries. “I have not chosen a career that will lead me to a great fortune, but not my principal ambition. In fact, later in life he enjoyed comfortable income…
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Pierre André Latreille – The Prince of Entomologists

Pierre André Latreille – The Prince of Entomologists

On November 29, 1762, French zoologist Pierre André Latreille was born. Latreille was considered the foremost entomologist of his time, and was described by one of his pupils as “the prince of entomologists“. Latreille made the first detailed classification of crustaceans and insects using a “natural method” of classification combining the approaches of Linnaeus and Fabricius.[3] Pierre André Latreille – Early Years Pierre André Latreille was born on November 29, 1762 in…
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Benedict Morel and Dementia Praecox

Benedict Morel and Dementia Praecox

On November 22, 1809, French psychiatrist Bénédict Morel was born. Morel was an influential figure in the field of degeneration during the mid-19th century. In 1852, he coined the term ‘precocious madness‘ for a chronic, deteriorating psychotic disorder characterized by rapid cognitive disintegration, usually beginning in the late teens or early adulthood, today known as dementia praecox. Benedict Morel – Background and Career Bénédict Morel was born in 1809 in Vienna, Austria,…
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Pierre Bayle – Forerunner of the Age of Enlightenment

Pierre Bayle – Forerunner of the Age of Enlightenment

On November 18, 1647, French philosopher and writer Pierre Bayle was born. As a forerunner of the Encyclopedists and an advocate of the principle of the toleration of divergent beliefs, his works subsequently influenced the development of the Enlightenment. He is probably best known for his seminal work the Historical and Critical Dictionary. “Reason is like a runner who doesn’t know that the race is over, or, like Penelope, constantly undoing what…
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