France

Pierre Mechain and the Meridian Survey Expedition

Pierre Mechain and the Meridian Survey Expedition

On August 16, 1744, French astronomer and surveyor Pierre François André Méchain was born. Together with Charles Messier, was a major contributor to the early study of deep sky objects and comets. He participated in the Meridian survey expedition in 1792 that produced measurements, which have served as the fundament of the metric system. Pierre Méchain was born in Laon, a medieval town in the Picardy region of northern France, as the son…
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Nicolas-Jacques Conté and the Pencil

Nicolas-Jacques Conté and the Pencil

Nicolas-Jacques Conté (1755-1805) On August 4, 1755, French painter, inventor, army officer and balloonist, Nicolas-Jacques Conté was born. Among others, he is credited with the invention of the modern pencil. Moreover, some consider him one of the greatest inventive minds of the eighteenth century. He distinguished himself for his mechanical genius which was of great avail to the French army in Egypt. Napoleon Bonaparte called him “a universal man with taste, understanding…
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Jean Picard and his Love for Accuracy

Jean Picard and his Love for Accuracy

Jean-Félix Picard (1620 – 1682) On July 21, 1620, French astronomer, cartographer and hydraulic engineer Jean-Félix Picard was born. He is regarded as the founder of modern astronomy in France. He introduced new methods, improved the old instruments, and added new devices, such as Huygens‘ pendulum clock to record times and time intervals. Jean-Félix Picard was born as a son of a bookseller and was allowed to study at the Jesuit Collège Royal…
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The Dancers of Edgar Degas

The Dancers of Edgar Degas

Ballet Class (1873) by Edgar Degas On July 19, 1834, French artist Edgar Degas was born, famous for his paintings, sculptures, prints, and drawings. He is especially identified with the subject of dance; more than half of his works depict dancers. He is regarded as one of the founders of Impressionism, although he rejected the term, and preferred to be called a realist. Edgar Degas graduated from school in 1853 and turned…
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The Conversational Eloquence of Madame de Staël

The Conversational Eloquence of Madame de Staël

Madame de Staël (1766-1817) On July 14, 1817, French woman of letters of Swiss origin Anne Louise Germaine de Staël-Holstein, commonly known as Madame de Staël, passed away. She was one of Napoleon’s principal opponents. Celebrated for her conversational eloquence, she participated actively in the political and intellectual life of her times. Her works, both critical and fictional, made their mark on the history of European Romanticism. She was a remarkable woman,…
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Camille Pissaro and the Impressionistic Art Movement

Camille Pissaro and the Impressionistic Art Movement

Camille Pissarro (1830–1903) On July 10, 1830, Danish–French Impressionist and Neo-Impressionist painter Camille Pissaro was born. His importance resides in his contributions to both Impressionism and Post-Impressionism. He acted as a father figure not only to the Impressionists but to all four of the major Post-Impressionists, including Georges Seurat, Paul Cézanne, Vincent van Gogh and Paul Gauguin. Jacob Abraham Camille Pissarro was born on the island of St. Thomas in the Danish…
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Alfred Binet and the Intelligence Test

Alfred Binet and the Intelligence Test

Alfred Binet (1857 – 1911) On July 8, 1857, French psychologist Alfred Binet was born. He was a pioneer in the field of intelligence testing of the normal mind. He took a different approach than most psychologists of his day: he was interested in the workings of the normal mind. He invented the first practical intelligence test, the Binet-Simon scale rather than the pathology of mental illness. After earning a law degree in 1878,…
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Deodat de Dolomieu and the Love for Rocks

Deodat de Dolomieu and the Love for Rocks

On June 23, 1750, French geologist Déodat Gratet de Dolomieu was born. He is best known for his field research in mineralogy. The mineral and the rock dolomite and the largest summital crater on the Piton de la Fournaise volcano were named after him. Déodat de Dolomieu grew up in the Alps of southeastern France and showed early interest in his surrounding nature. However, he started a military career when he was only…
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Charles Augustin de Coulomb and the Electrostatic Force

Charles Augustin de Coulomb and the Electrostatic Force

On June 14, 1736, French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb was born. He is best known for developing Coulomb’s law, the definition of the electrostatic force of attraction and repulsion, but also did important work on friction. The SI unit of electric charge, the coulomb, was named after him. Charles Augustin de Coulomb received a good education in mathematics, astronomy, chemistry and botany since both sides of his family were respected and quite wealthy…
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Nicolas Sadi Carnot and the Science of Thermodynamics

Nicolas Sadi Carnot and the Science of Thermodynamics

On June 1, 1796, French military engineer and physicist Nicolas Léonard Sadi Carnot was born. He is often described as the “father of thermodynamics“. In particular, Carnot gave the first successful theory of the maximum efficiency of heat engines. Carnot’s work attracted little attention during his lifetime, but it was later used by Rudolf Clausius and Lord Kelvin to formalize the second law of thermodynamics and define the concept of entropy. Sadi Carnot was…
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