Famous French Physicists

European nations such as France have undoubtedly contributed in a great way towards the evolution of science over the years. Many physicists and researchers from the nation have been applauded by the world for their achievements in the field of science. Some of the French Physicists, such as Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel had struck gold even in the early years of the 20th century with the phenomenal discovery of the ‘Photovoltaic effect’, the principle behind the functioning of the solar cell. The world-renowned physicist Madame Curie, who became a citizen of France at a later part of her life, also made the country proud by bagging the prestigious ‘Nobel’ prize for her work related to radioactivity. The contributions of most of these eminent individuals range from magnetism and electricity to optics, and are one of the prime reasons behind the technological sophistication that we see today. Explore this space for the biographies of some of the most famous French physicists who have left an indelible mark on the world of science and technology. Read on and find out all about their life stories, timelines and also acquaint yourself with a few interesting facts & trivia related to their lives.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 
Marie Curie
(Physicist Who Conducted Pioneering Research on 'Radioactivity' and First Woman to Win a Nobel Prize)

Marie Curie
20
Birthdate: November 7, 1867
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Warsaw, Poland
Died: July 4, 1934
Amongst the most notable scientists of her time, the first woman to win a Nobel Prize, the sole person to win two Nobel Prize in two different category, and the first woman professor at the University of Paris—Marie Curie’s list of achievements is incredible. She did extensive research in the field of radioactivity and discovered polonium and radium.

 2 
Blaise Pascal
(One of the Greatest Mathematicians of All Time Who Invented the Mechanical Calculator)

Blaise Pascal
6
Birthdate: June 19, 1623
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Clermont-Ferrand, France
Died: August 19, 1662

Blaise Pascal was a French physicist, mathematician, philosopher, and inventor. A child prodigy, Pascal's work on projective geometry, at the age of 16 is commendable. He is one of the earliest inventors of the mechanical calculator, which he did when he was still a teenager. His work on probability theory influenced the development of social science and modern economics.

 3 
Pierre Curie
(Nobel Laureate in Physics)

Pierre Curie
10
Birthdate: May 15, 1859
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 19, 1906

A pioneer in crystallography, radioactivity, piezoelectricity, and magnetism, Pierre Curie was a French physicist who won the Nobel Prize in Physics along with Henri Becquerel and Marie Curie. Despite being an atheist, Pierre Curie was fascinated by spiritualism as he believed that spiritual questions deal with physics. 

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 4 
Louis de Broglie
(Physicist)

Louis de Broglie
6
Birthdate: August 15, 1892
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dieppe
Died: March 19, 1987

Louis de Broglie was a French aristocrat and physicist who made important contributions to quantum theory. His de Broglie hypothesis, which suggests that all matter has wave properties, is one of the most important features in the theory of quantum mechanics. In 1929, de Broglie was honored with the Nobel Prize for Physics for his work.

 5 

Irène Joliot-Curie
4
Birthdate: September 12, 1897
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 17, 1956

Marie Curie and Pierre Curie’s daughter, Irène Joliot-Curie, herself a brilliant scientist, won the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, along with her husband, Joliot-Curie, for discovering artificial radioactivity. She was also one of the first three female French government members. She tragically died of leukemia caused by exposure to radiation.

 6 
Henri Becquerel
(Physicist, Discoverer of Radioactivity)

Henri Becquerel
5
Birthdate: December 15, 1852
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 25, 1908

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Henri Becquerel is known for his chance discovery of spontaneous radioactivity. Born into a family of scientists, Becquerel had been an engineer and a physics professor earlier. Marie Curie, who shared the Nobel with him and her husband, Pierre, was one of his doctoral students.

 7 
Henri Poincare
(French Polymath and Mathematician Known as One of the Founders of the 'Field of Topology')

Henri Poincare
5
Birthdate: April 29, 1854
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nancy, France
Died: July 17, 1912
Known as The Last Universalist for his expertise in a variety of domains, French mathematician Henri Poincare conducted research that formed the basis of the modern chaos theory. Apart from his work on relativity and the three-body problem, he also laid the foundation of algebraic topology.
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 8 

Andre Marie Ampere
4
Birthdate: January 20, 1775
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Parish of St. Nizier, Lyon, France
Died: June 10, 1836

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. 

 9 
Joseph Fourier
(Mathematician & Physicist)

Joseph Fourier
4
Birthdate: March 21, 1768
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Auxerre, Burgundy, Kingdom of France (now in Yonne, France)
Died: May 16, 1830

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.

 10 
Cédric Villani
(Mathematician, Physicist, University teacher)

Cédric Villani
5
Birthdate: October 5, 1973
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Brive-la-Gaillarde

Fields Medal-winning French politician and mathematician Cédric Villani works mainly on mathematical physics, partial differential equations and Riemannian geometry. He serves as Member of the National Assembly for Essonne's 5th constituency, after being elected during the 2017 legislative election. He was a member of La République En Marche! but defected later to form the political party Ecology, Democracy, Solidarity.  

 11 
Sophie Germain
(French Mathematician Known for Her 'Sophie Germain Prime Numbers')

Sophie Germain
4
Birthdate: April 1, 1776
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Rue Saint-Denis, Paris, France
Died: June 27, 1831

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.

 12 
Charles Augustin De Coulomb
(Physicist, Eponymous discoverer of Coulomb's law)

Charles Augustin De Coulomb
3
Birthdate: June 14, 1736
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Angoulême, France
Died: August 23, 1806

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.

 13 
Jacques Charles
(Physicist, Chemist, Inventor, Balloonist, Mathematician)

Jacques Charles
3
Birthdate: November 12, 1746
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Beaugency
Died: April 7, 1823

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.

 14 

Frédéric Joliot-Curie
3
Birthdate: March 19, 1900
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris
Died: August 14, 1958

Frédéric Joliot-Curie was a French physicist whose discovery of artificial radioactivity earned him the 1935 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, which was jointly awarded to Frédéric and his wife Irène Joliot-Curie. Along with his wife, Frédéric is credited with founding the Orsay Faculty of Sciences, a physics and mathematics school within Paris-Saclay University. He had also won the Stalin Peace Prize.

 15 
Sadi Carnot
(Physicist and Father of Thermodynamics)

Sadi Carnot
3
Birthdate: June 1, 1796
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 24, 1832

Son of French Revolutionary leader and mathematician Lazare Carnot, Sadi Carnot was an engineer in the French army. He later laid down the Carnot cycle of heat engines. Much of his works were buried with him when he died of cholera at 36, due to the contagiousness of the disease.

 16 
Jean Le Rond d’Alembert
(Mathematician, Philosopher)

Jean Le Rond d’Alembert
3
Birthdate: November 16, 1717
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 29, 1783

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.

 17 

Joseph-Ignace Guillotin
3
Birthdate: May 28, 1738
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Saintes, France
Died: March 26, 1814

 18 
Paul Langevin
(Physicist, Professor, Chemist, Philosopher of science, Educationist, Non-fiction writer)

Paul Langevin
3
Birthdate: January 23, 1872
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: December 19, 1946

Best known for developing the Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation, physicist Paul Langevin was also a staunch Communist. Having worked on his doctoral thesis under Pierre Curie, he had formed a connection with Curie’s wife, Marie Curie, which developed into a full-blown love affair after Pierre’s death.

 19 

Hélène Langevin-Joliot
3
Birthdate: September 19, 1927
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France

French nuclear-physicist Hélène Langevin-Joliot comes from the distinguished Curie family, which includes five Nobel Laureates, including her maternal-grandparents Marie and Pierre Curie, her parents Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie, and her maternal uncle-in-law Henry Labouisse. Hélène serves as a director of research at CNRS and as professor of nuclear physics at the Institute of Nuclear Physics at the University of Paris.   

 20 
Siméon Denis Poisson
(Mathematician)

Siméon Denis Poisson
3
Birthdate: June 21, 1781
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Pithiviers, France
Died: April 25, 1840

 21 

Augustin-Jean Fresnel
3
Birthdate: May 10, 1788
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Broglie (Eure)
Died: July 14, 1827

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.

 22 
François Arago
(Astronomer, Mathematician, Physicist, Politician, Scientist, University teacher)

François Arago
3
Birthdate: February 26, 1786
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Estagel
Died: October 2, 1853

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.

 23 
Joseph Black
(Chemist, Physicist, Scientist, University teacher)

Joseph Black
3
Birthdate: April 16, 1728
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Bordeaux
Died: December 6, 1799

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. 

 24 
Léon Foucault
(Physicist)

Léon Foucault
3
Birthdate: September 18, 1819
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris
Died: February 11, 1868

Léon Foucault was a French physicist remembered for his presentation of the Foucault pendulum. Foucault is credited with measuring the speed of light and discovering eddy currents. He is also credited with coining the term gyroscope. Considered one of the most important physicists from France, Foucault's name is among the 72 names etched on the famous Eiffel Tower in Paris.

 25 
Lazare Carnot
(Mathematician, Politician, Engineer, Officer, Physicist)

Lazare Carnot
3
Birthdate: May 13, 1753
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nolay
Died: August 2, 1823

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.

 26 
Conrad Schlumberger
(Geophysicist)

Conrad Schlumberger
3
Birthdate: October 2, 1878
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Guebwiller, France
Died: May 9, 1936

Along with his brother, Marcel Schlumberger, Conrad Schlumberger formed one of the most well-known geophysicist duos of Germany. A pioneer in petroleum production, he co-established Schlumberger Ltd., one of the world’s largest oil-field service companies, with Marcel. Their technique of oil exploration offered a cheap alternative than the existing coring methods.

 27 
Marin Mersenne
(Mathematician)

Marin Mersenne
3
Birthdate: September 8, 1588
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Oizé, France
Died: September 1, 1648

 28 
Johann Heinrich Lambert
(Mathematician who Proved that π is Irrational)

Johann Heinrich Lambert
2
Birthdate: August 26, 1728
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Mulhouse, France
Died: September 25, 1777

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.

 29 
Serge Haroche
(Physicist, University teacher)

Serge Haroche
2
Birthdate: September 11, 1944
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Casablanca

 30 

Claude Cohen-Tannoudji
2
Birthdate: April 1, 1933
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Constantine, Algeria

Born to Jewish parents in Algeria, Nobel Prize-winning French physicist Claude Cohen-Tannoudji later moved to Paris. Best known for his research on using laser light to cool atoms to low temperatures at which they can be studied better, he now works at the École Normale Supérieure.

 31 
Alain Aspect
(Physicist)

Alain Aspect
2
Birthdate: June 15, 1947
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Agen

 32 
Denis Papin
(French physicist, mathematician)

Denis Papin
2
Birthdate: August 22, 1647
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Blois, France
Died: August 26, 1713

Best remembered for his ground-breaking invention of the pressure cooker, Denis Papin was also the man behind the first piston steam engine, which played a major part in ushering in the Industrial Revolution. Unfortunately, he died a destitute and remains buried in an unmarked grave in London.

 33 
Claude-Louis Navier
(physicist, economist, mathematician, engineer of roads and bridges)

Claude-Louis Navier
2
Birthdate: February 10, 1785
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Burlada
Died: August 21, 1836

 34 
Pierre Duhem
(Historian)

Pierre Duhem
2
Birthdate: June 9, 1861
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 14, 1916

Noted for his view that every physical theory should be derivable from thermodynamic first principles, French theoretical physicist Pierre Duhem was also an eminent historian and philosopher of science, producing groundbreaking work in medieval science. Equally known for his work on relation between theory and experiments, he also established that it is impossible to test a scientific hypothesis in isolation.

 35 

Jean Baptiste Perrin
2
Birthdate: September 30, 1870
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Lille, France
Died: April 17, 1942

Jean Baptiste Perrin was a French physicist who won the prestigious Nobel Prize for Physics in 1926. He is credited with confirming the atomic nature of matter. Jean Baptiste Perrin also served as a professor at the University of Paris for many years.

 36 

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes
2
Birthdate: October 24, 1932
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 18, 2007

Pierre-Gilles de Gennes was a French physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1991. In the initial years of his career, he worked mainly on neutron scattering and magnetism. In his later years, he worked on liquid crystals, interfacial problems, and granular materials. Besides the Nobel Prize, he was also the recipient of the prestigious Lorentz Medal.

 37 
Georges Charpak
(Physicist)

Georges Charpak
2
Birthdate: August 1, 1924
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Dąbrowica, Poland
Died: September 29, 2010

Georges Charpak was a physicist whose invention and development of the multiwire proportional chamber earned him the prestigious Nobel Prize in Physics in 1992. He is also credited with co-founding several companies, including SuperSonic Imagine and Molecular Engines Laboratories. Over the course of his illustrious career, Georges Charpak was also honored with other awards, such as the Golden Plate Award.

 38 
Edmond Becquerel
(First observed the photovoltaic effect)

Edmond Becquerel
0
Birthdate: March 24, 1820
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 11, 1891

 39 

Guillaume Amontons
2
Birthdate: August 31, 1663
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 11, 1705

 40 
Jean-Baptiste Biot
(Mathematician, Physicist, Astronomer, Civil engineer, Engineer, Professor)

Jean-Baptiste Biot
2
Birthdate: April 21, 1774
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris
Died: February 3, 1862

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. 

 41 
Georges Claude
(Engineer)

Georges Claude
2
Birthdate: September 24, 1870
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 23, 1960

French engineer and inventor Georges Claude was often referred as the Edison of France. He is most noted for inventing and commercializing neon lighting and having a near monopoly on the new technology, for conducting an experiment to generate thermal energy of the ocean and building the first Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion (OTEC) plant, and for the Claude cycle.  

Jean Léonard Marie Poiseuille
2
Birthdate: April 22, 1797
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 26, 1869

 43 
Albert Fert
(Physicist, University teacher)

Albert Fert
2
Birthdate: March 7, 1938
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Carcassonne

 44 
Didier Sornette
(Physicist, Economist)

Didier Sornette
2
Birthdate: June 25, 1957
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris
Apart from chairing the entrepreneurial risks department at ETH Zurich, Didier Sornette also teaches at the Swiss Finance Institute and is a former professor of UCLA. An expert in predicting crises in complex systems, he has worked on physical modeling of earthquakes and financial market inefficiencies.

 45 
Hippolyte Fizeau
(Physicist, Astronomer)

Hippolyte Fizeau
2
Birthdate: September 23, 1819
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris
Died: September 18, 1896

Physicist Hippolyte Fizeau is best remembered for conducting the Fizeau experiment, named after him, which measured the speed of light. His other achievements include his contribution to the discovery of the Doppler effect and his description of the capacitor to improve the efficiency of the induction coil.

 46 
Louis Néel
(Physicist)

Louis Néel
1
Birthdate: November 22, 1904
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: November 17, 2000

 47 

Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis
1
Birthdate: May 21, 1792
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 19, 1843

French mathematician and physicist Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis proposed what is now known as Coriolis force. While teaching at the École Polytechnique, Paris, he extended the scope of kinetic energy. His On the Calculation of Mechanical Action remains his most significant book. His name remains inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

 48 
Alfred Kastler
(Physicist)

Alfred Kastler
1
Birthdate: May 3, 1902
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Guebwiller, Alsace, German Empire
Died: January 7, 1984

Louis-Sébastien Lenormand
1
Birthdate: May 25, 1757
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Montpellier, France
Died: April 4, 1837

 50 
Charles Fabry
(Physicist)

Charles Fabry
1
Birthdate: June 11, 1867
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Marseille, France
Died: December 11, 1945