France

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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Nicolas Lemery and the Acid-Base Chemistry

Nicolas Lemery and the Acid-Base Chemistry

On November 17, 1647, French chemist Nicolas Lémery was born. Lemery was one of the first to develop theories on acid-base chemistry in a time which was often referred to as “the dawn of scientific chemistry” . “Chemistry is the art which teaches the separation of different substances encountered in a mixture.” — Nicolas Lemery (1675), Course on Chemistry  Nicholas Lemery – Family Background and Education Nicolas Lemery was the fifth of seven…
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Jacques Charles and the First Hydrogen Balloon

Jacques Charles and the First Hydrogen Balloon

On November 12, 1746, French inventor, scientist, mathematician, and balloonist Jacques Alexandre César Charles was born.Charles and the Robert brothers launched the world‘s first (unmanned) hydrogen-filled balloon in August 1783. In December 1783, Charles and his co-pilot Nicolas-Louis Robert ascended to a height of about 500 metres in a manned balloon. Their pioneering use of hydrogen for lift led to this type of balloon being named a Charlière (as opposed to a Montgolfière…
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Sarah Bernhardt – the First World Star

Sarah Bernhardt – the First World Star

On October 22 (or 23), 1844, French stage actress Sarah Bernhardt was born. She is considered the most famous actress of her time and was one of the first world stars. “Once the curtain is raised, the actor ceases to belong to himself. He belongs to his character, to his author, to his public.” – Sarah Bernhardt, as quoted in The Art of the Theatre (1925), p. 171 Sarah Bernhardt – Early Years…
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Réaumur – the Entomologist and the Temperature Scale

Réaumur – the Entomologist and the Temperature Scale

On October 17, 1757, French entomologist and physicist René-Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur passed away. Réaumur contributed to many different fields, especially the study of insects. But, he is best known for having introduced the Réaumur temperature scale in 1730. Of course everybody has heard of Fahrenheit and Celsius. But, there exists a variety of different temperature scales, most prominent of them the perhaps absolute temperature scale of Lord Kelvin. But, although the other’s prevailed, Réaumur’s scale still…
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