(June 21, 1781 – April 25, 1840)

Poisson was an outstanding genius whose contributions to mathematical physics are hard to beat. Aged 17, he gained admission into the highly competitive École Polytechnique Paris as top qualifier and wasted no time in letting his presence felt. The great Joseph-Louis Lagrange and Pierre-Simon Laplace were among the professors awed by his abilities. Consequently, he was exempted from the general routine and encouraged to pursue his own areas of interest. This allowance enabled him publish two remarkable treatises in 1800. Upon graduation that same year, the Polytechnique employed him as Deputy Lecturer. His tenet was, “Life is good for two things: doing mathematics and teaching mathematics.” So, it was not surprising that his brilliance alongside diligence, enabled him attain full professorship within 6 years. Siméon Denis Poisson would successively succeed Joseph Fourier and Laplace, and simultaneously serve in various capacities on various boards: courtesy of continued patronage by Lagrange and Laplace. At the height of his career, only Carl Friedrich Gauss and Augustin-Louis Cauchy outranked him mathematically. However, he remained a better teacher than both; and for several years served as Math Pedagogical Supervisor for the whole of France. A prolific researcher, Poisson’s works spanned across vast areas of physics and mathematics. Over 400 treatises are attributed to him. Peter Dirichlet, Joseph Liouville, Michel Chasles and Nicolas Carnot are among his famous students. In addition to many concepts and theorems, the 42-kilometer-wide Poisson lunar crater is named after him. He is also among 72 honorees whose names are emblazoned on the Eiffel tower.

10 Comments

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