Antoine Lavoisier was a French chemist and nobleman. He played a crucial role during the chemical revolution of the 18th-century. Widely regarded as the father of modern chemistry, Lavoisier had a major influence on the history of biology as well as the history of chemistry. He also helped build the metric system.
Though French scholar Pierre-Simon Laplace is primarily known for his work on the solar system, his research extended to areas such as mathematics and physics, apart from astronomy. Widely known as the Newton of France, he escaped being executed during the French Revolution, owing to his lack of political views.
Joseph Fourier was a French physicist and mathematician best remembered for commencing the investigation of the Fourier series, which is used widely to solve problems of heat transfer and vibrations. Fourier's law of conduction and Fourier transform are named in his honor. Fourier is also said to have discovered the greenhouse effect.
Joseph Louis Lagrange was an Italian mathematician and astronomer who made significant contributions to the fields of number theory, analysis, and both classical and celestial mechanics. He served as the director of mathematics at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin for over 20 years. He later moved to France and became a member of the French Academy of Sciences.
Born into an affluent family, French mathematician Adrien-Marie Legendre probably never had to earn a living till the beginning of the French Revolution. Excelling in math and physics, he later contributed to areas such as elliptic functions, developed the least squares method, and lent his name to Legendre polynomials.
French mathematician Augustin-Louis Cauchy was initially a military engineer. In his early days, he and his family escaped the Reign of Terror and settled in Arcueil. He was one of the pioneers of mathematical analysis and made significant contributions to subjects such as error theory, calculus, and complex functions.
Known for his pathbreaking Gay-Lussac's Law, French chemist-physicist Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac was also the first, along with his colleague Alexander von Humboldt, to discover that water is composed of one part of oxygen and two parts of hydrogen. His name is one of the 72 that adorn the Eiffel Tower.
French political theorist, scientist, and physician Jean-Paul Marat was a key figure of the French Revolution. He published his radical views in pamphlets and newspapers, such as L'Ami du people. He was held responsible for the September massacres. His assassination by a Girondin supporter made him a Jacobin martyr.
French astronomer Charles Messier is remembered for his pioneering tabulation of nebulae, making it easier to differentiate between nebulae and comets. King Louis XV name him The Comet Ferret. He was drawn to astronomy when he witnessed a solar eclipse and the great six-tailed comet in childhood.
French biologist Jean-Baptiste Lamarck acquired his love for plants while serving as a soldier in the French army. Following an injury, he quit his military career but retained his love for botany. He later taught zoology, studied the classification of invertebrates, and also coined the term biology.
Andre Marie Ampere was a French physicist and mathematician. He is best known for being one of the founders of the science of classical electromagnetism. He was a professor at the École Polytechnique and the Collège de France and a member of the French Academy of Sciences. The base SI unit of electric current, the ampere, is named after him.
Best known for developing the Charles’s law, which explains the expansion of gases when heated, Jacques Charles was a prominent French physicist. He was the first to ascend in a hydrogen-filled gas balloon, thus pioneering hot-air balloon flight. The Académie des Sciences member later became a professor of physics.
While in prison, in the aftermath of the Seven Years’ War, army pharmacist Antoine-Augustin Parmentier was forced to eat potatoes, which were considered fit only for prison ration and animal feed back then. Parmentier later persuaded the Paris Faculty of Medicine to declare potatoes edible and popularized them in France.
Georges Cuvier was a French zoologist and naturalist. A major figure in the early 19th century's research of natural sciences, Cuvier played an important role in establishing the fields of comparative paleontology and anatomy by comparing fossils with living animals, for which he is sometimes regarded as the founding father of paleontology.
French mathematician Sophie Germain had used the pseudonym M. Le Blanc to get hold of notes from the École Polytechnique, as being a woman, she was not allowed to attend the institute. She later contributed to the number theory and also pioneered the elasticity theory. She died of breast cancer.
Johann Heinrich Lambert was a Swiss polymath whose contributions to the fields of physics, mathematics, map projections, astronomy, and philosophy are considered important by many scholars. He is credited with introducing hyperbolic functions into trigonometry. He is also credited with inventing a hygrometer, which is used to measure the quantity of water vapor in soil and air.
French physicist Charles Augustin De Coulomb, remembered for laying down the Coulomb’s law, had previously been a military engineer in the West Indies. At the onset of the French Revolution, Coulomb, struggling with failing health, devoted himself to research. The unit of electric charge, coulomb, was named after him.
French mathematician and philosopher Marquis de Condorcet was a champion for liberal economy and women’s rights. He was a significant contributor of the Encyclopédie and was part of the Academy of Sciences. He is also remembered for his political activities in the wake of the French Revolution.
Jean le Rond d'Alembert was a French mathematician, physicist, philosopher, and music theorist. He is credited with coming up with d'Alembert's formula, a solution to the one-dimensional wave equation, which is named after him. His life and work inspired Andrew Crumey's 1996 novel, D'Alembert's Principle.
Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was a French mathematician, encyclopédiste, cosmologist, and naturalist. He is best known for authoring and publishing Histoire Naturelle, an encyclopaedic collection of 36 volumes, which he worked on for 50 years. His work had a strong influence on two subsequent generations of naturalists, including popular French scientists like Georges Cuvier and Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.
Augustin-Jean Fresne, best remembered for his pioneering research on the wave theory of light, was a sickly child and was mostly homeschooled in his early days. The French physicist was a civil engineer, too. Unfortunately, most of his scientific work failed to receive public attention during his lifetime.
French physicist and mathematician François Arago discovered rotatory magnetism, named Arago's rotations. He is also remembered for his research on the wave theory of light and for the reforms he introduced as the French minister of war and the navy. The Eiffel Tower has his name inscribed on it.
Joseph Black was an 18th-century Scottish physicist and chemist. He is remembered for his discoveries of magnesium, specific heat, latent heat, and carbon dioxide. He spent several years of his career as a professor of medicine and chemistry at the University of Edinburgh. In 1783, he became one of the founders of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Lazare Carnot was a French physicist, mathematician, and politician. His role in the Napoleonic Wars and French Revolutionary Wars earned him the sobriquet Organizer of Victory. Carnot is credited with developing innovative defensive designs for forts, such as the Carnot wall which served as a defensive mechanism against infantry and artillery attack.
Of French astronomer Guillaume Le Gentil’s discoveries, the most notable remain the Messier objects M32, M36, and M38. He waited for 8 years in India to observe the transit of Venus, but bad weather prevented his mission. He was mistakenly declared dead in France, but went back to reclaim his life.
Initially training to be an apothecary like his father, Joseph Proust later deviated to pharmacy and then to chemistry. He is best remembered for developing the law of definite proportions, also known as the Proust's law, which states that pure chemical compounds always consist of constant proportions of constituent elements.
At 13, Marie-Anne Paulze Lavoisier had married lawyer and chemist Antoine Lavoisier. Her mastery of English helped her assist her husband communicate with his collaborators. She also illustrated her husband’s books and eventually negotiated with Joseph Priestley, on his behalf, over the naming of oxygen, which Priestley had discovered.
A major figure of the French Revolution, Jean Sylvain Bailly is remembered for leading the Tennis Court Oath. He also made a name for himself as an astronomer and studied the Halley’s Comet and the satellites of Jupiter extensively. As a mayor of Paris, he later defended Marie-Antoinette and was guillotined.
Pierre Louis Maupertuis was a French mathematician and man of letters. He is credited with having invented the principle of least action; his version is known as Maupertuis's principle. He was also a philosopher and his work in natural history touched upon a range of topics. He was the first President of the Prussian Academy of Science.
Jean-Baptiste Biot was a French physicist, mathematician, and astronomer. He was a co-discoverer of what became known as the Biot-Savart law of magnetostatics. He is also credited with establishing the reality of meteorites. He made major contributions to the fields of optics and magnetism as well. Cape Biot in eastern Greenland is named in his honor.
Born to a math teacher, French mathematician and physicist Alexis Clairaut had mastered calculus at 10. He is best remembered for devising the Clairaut’s equation and for validating the scientific claims of Sir Isaac Newton. He was part of an expedition to Lapland to ascertain a degree of the meridian arc.
French naturalist, geographer, and mathematician Charles Marie de La Condamine is remembered for completing the first known scientific exploration of the Amazon region and also created the first map of the region. He was also part of an expedition that measured a latitude at the equator.
French naturalist Bernard Germain de Lacépède is best known for his contribution to fellow French naturalist Comte de Buffon's Histoire Naturelle. He enriched the world’s knowledge of fishes and reptiles. Following the rise of Napoleon, Lacépède joined the French Senate and later became a minister of Bourbon state.
Louis Nicolas Vauquelin was a French chemist and pharmacist. He is best known for his discoveries of chromium and beryllium. He worked as an assistant in the laboratory of chemist A. F. Fourcroy and later obtained the post of laboratory assistant at the Jardin du Roi. He eventually became a professor at the University of Paris.
Savoyard-French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet is known for reorganising chemical nomenclature with his colleagues and for introducing the use of chlorine gas as a commercial bleach. He developed a solution of sodium hypochlorite as a modern bleaching agent, first ascertained the elemental composition of ammonia gas, and introduced the reversible reaction concept leading to development of the chemical equilibrium concept.