(March 21, 1768 – May 16, 1830)

Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier was an innovative scholar who excelled in every field he embraced. From maths to physics, as well as from teaching to administration, he was sagacious in all of them. Orphaned early in his childhood, the Bishop of his native Auxerre facilitated his first enrolment at school. He would later benefit from the tutelage of Joseph-Louis Lagrange. Following in his tutor’s footsteps, Fourier researched on Analysis and Algebra. In addition to Lagrange, he cultivated friendships with both Pierre-Simon Laplace and Gaspard Monge. By the time Lagrange retired as the Professor of Analysis and Mechanics at the École Polytechnique Paris in 1797, Fourier was recommended as his successor. But his researches in this new position were interrupted the following year; when he had to travel to Egypt, where he served Napoleon’s expeditionary force as a science adviser. Afterwards, he was appointed the governor of Grenoble. It was while serving in this capacity that he dedicated himself to the thermal researches which made him famous. He excelled as a researcher, as a tutor, and as an administrator. His highly regarded Fourier series resulted from the heat transfer experiments, which he simplified with Trigonometric functions. This culminated in the publication of his masterpiece in 1822, titled: Théorie Analytique de la Chaleur. William Thomson Kelvin would later describe the book as a great mathematical poem. The Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble was named in his honor. He is also among the 72 distinguished French achievers whose names were emblazoned on the Eiffel tower.

6 Comments

  1. My respect to this orphan who became important against all odds. In those days, everything was class-ridden. The aristocrats at the top were mostly incompetent and made foolish decisions.

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