(March 21, 1768 – May 16, 1830)
Jean-Baptiste Joseph Fourier was an innovative scholar who excelled in every field he embraced. From physics to mathematics, 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. And following in his tutor’s footsteps, Fourier researched Analysis and Algebra. In addition to Lagrange, he did cultivate friendships with both Pierre-Simon Laplace and Gaspard Monge. By the time Lagrange retired as the Professor of Analysis and Mechanics at Paris École Polytechnique in 1797, Fourier succeeded him. But his research 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 research which made him famous. He excelled as a researcher, as a tutor, and as an administrator. His highly regarded Fourier series resulted from 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 later described that book as a great mathematical poem. The Université Joseph Fourier in Grenoble, as well as the 51-kilometer-wide Fourier lunar crater, are named in his honor. He is also among 72 French achievers whose names are emblazoned on the Eiffel tower.