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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jean Léonard Marie Poiseuille was a French physiologist and physicist. He is best remembered for formulating and publishing the Hagen–Poiseuille equation. Jean Léonard Marie Poiseuille came up with the equation after developing an interest in the flow of blood in capillaries and veins.