Famous French Scientists

Dating back to the seventeenth century—when King Louis XIV established the first institute for scientific research named ‘Acádémie des Sciences’—technology and science in France have come a long way. The development of groundbreaking inventions like radioactivity, refrigerators, photography and parachutes, amongst others, have made French scientists famous all over the world. France lays claim to being a major exporter of nuclear technology, as well as the inventor of safe radioactive waste disposal methods. Many utilitarian innovations have been made by French scientists; these famous scientists have won the prestigious ‘Nobel Prize’ for their invaluable contribution to the advancement of human society. Science would not have been the same had it not been for scientists like Henri Becquerel, who discovered ‘Radioactivity’; Antoine Lavoisier, who proposed the ‘Conservation of Mass’ theory and Blaise Pascal, who came up with the ‘Probability Theory’. French scientists have always been leading contributors to the world’s scientific advancements, be it in the field of chemistry, or molecular biology or radiology or the physical sciences. To know more, explore the collection of biographies of some of the most famous French scientists. Read for more information about their life stories, timelines along with interesting facts & trivia related to them.

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

Marie Curie.
25
Famous As: Physicist
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 Louis Pasteur

Louis Pasteur.
9
Famous As: Chemist and Microbiologist
Birthdate: December 27, 1822
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Dole, Jura, Franche-Comté, France
Died: September 28, 1895
Considered one of the founders of bacteriology, Louis Pasteur created vaccines for anthrax and rabies, and invented the process of heating food and wine to kill microbes that cause contamination, which was named pasteurization after him. Known as the “father of microbiology,” he also founded the Pasteur Institute in Paris.  

 3 René Déscartes

René Déscartes.
14
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher and Writer
Birthdate: March 31, 1596
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: La Haye en Touraine, Touraine, France
Died: February 11, 1650
René Descartes, the father of modern philosophy, laid down the idea of rationalism, later followed by Spinoza and Leibniz. Descartes also contributed to the field of analytical geometry and led to the Cartesian coordinate system being named after him. His Meditations on First Philosophy is still taught at many universities.

 4 Blaise Pascal

Blaise Pascal.
21
Famous As: French Mathematician, Physicist, Inventor, Writer and Catholic Philosopher
Birthdate: June 19, 1623
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Clermont-Ferrand,, Auvergne, 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.

 5 Antoine Lavoisier

Antoine Lavoisier.
6
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: August 26, 1743
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 8, 1794

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. 

 6 Pierre-Simon Laplace

Pierre-Simon Laplace.
14
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: March 23, 1749
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Beaumont-en-Auge
Died: March 5, 1827

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.

 7 Henri Poincare

Henri Poincare.
4
Famous As: Mathematician and Philosopher
Birthdate: April 29, 1854
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, 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 Évariste Galois

Évariste Galois.
10
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: October 25, 1811
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bourg-la-Reine, French Empire
Died: May 31, 1832

Évariste Galois was a French mathematician best remembered for solving a 350-year-old problem when he was still in his teens. His work formed the basis for group theory and Galois theory, two important branches of abstract algebra. Also a political activist, Évariste Galois died at the age of 20 after suffering wounds in a duel.

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 9 Louis de Broglie

Louis de Broglie.
7
Famous As: Physicist
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.

 10 Joseph Fourier

Joseph Fourier.
8
Famous As: Mathematician & Physicist
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.

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 11 Pierre Curie

Pierre Curie.
13
Famous As: Nobel Laureate in Physics
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. 

 12 Pierre de Fermat

Pierre de Fermat.
4
Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: August 17, 1601
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Beaumont-de-Lomagne
Died: January 12, 1665

Seventeenth-century French mathematician Pierre de Fermat was also a qualified lawyer. Remembered mostly for his contribution to number theory, probability, calculus, and analytic geometry, he was also known for his proficiency in six languages, including Greek and Latin. One of his major works, Introduction to Loci, was released posthumously.

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 13 Alexander Grothendieck

Alexander Grothendieck.
4
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: March 28, 1928
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Berlin, Prussia, Germany
Died: November 13, 2014

Alexander Grothendieck was a 20th-century mathematician who was a leading figure in the creation of modern algebraic geometry. With his so-called "relative" perspective, he revolutionized many areas of pure mathematics. During his later career, he became a professor at the University of Montpellier. He is counted among the greatest mathematicians of the 20th century.

 14 Joseph Louis Lagrange

Joseph Louis Lagrange.
4
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: January 25, 1736
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Turin, Italy
Died: April 10, 1813

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. 

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 15 Henri Becquerel

Henri Becquerel.
7
Famous As: Physicist, Discoverer of Radioactivity
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.

 16 Adrien-Marie Legendre

Adrien-Marie Legendre.
7
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: September 18, 1752
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 10, 1833

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.

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 17 Irène Joliot-Curie

Irène Joliot-Curie.
11
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: September 12, 1897
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris
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.

 18 Augustin-Louis Cauchy

Augustin-Louis Cauchy.
4
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: August 21, 1789
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris
Died: May 23, 1857

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.

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 19 Jean-Paul Marat

Jean-Paul Marat.
7
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: May 24, 1743
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boudry, Switzerland
Died: July 13, 1793

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.

 20 Jean-Baptiste Lamarck

Jean-Baptiste Lamarck.
4
Famous As: Naturalist
Birthdate: August 1, 1744
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Bazentin, France
Died: December 18, 1829

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.

 21 Andre Marie Ampere

Andre Marie Ampere.
6
Famous As: Physicist
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. 

 22 Cédric Villani

Cédric Villani
4
Famous As: Mathematician, Physicist, University teacher
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.  

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 23 Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac

Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac.
3
Famous As: Chemist and Physicist
Birthdate: December 6, 1778
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat
Died: May 9, 1850

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.

 24 Antoine-Augustin Parmentier

Antoine-Augustin Parmentier
7
Famous As: Botanist, Pharmacist, Physician, Agronomist, Nutritionist
Birthdate: August 12, 1737
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Montdidier
Died: December 17, 1813

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.

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 25 René Girard

René Girard.
4
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 25, 1923
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: November 4, 2015

René Girard was a French philosopher of social science, literary critic, and historian. Over the years, Girard's work has had an influence on disciplines like philosophy, anthropology, psychology, mythology, theology, economics, sociology, and cultural studies among other important disciplines. In 2006, René Girard was honored by the University of Tübingen with the prestigious Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize.

 26 Giovanni Domenico Cassini

Giovanni Domenico Cassini.
3
Famous As: Astronomer and Mathematician
Birthdate: June 8, 1625
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Perinaldo, Italy
Died: September 14, 1712
Italian-French mathematician and astronomer Giovanni Domenico Cassini is best remembered for his discovery of four moons of Saturn, the computation of Jupiter’s rotational period, and the observation of the Cassini Division, or the gap between Saturn’s rings. King Louis XIV made him a member of the Académie des Sciences

 27 Vilfredo Pareto

Vilfredo Pareto
4
Famous As: Economist, Writer, Philosopher, Sociologist, University teacher
Birthdate: July 15, 1848
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris
Died: August 19, 1923

A qualified civil engineer, Vilfredo Pareto had initially worked for the railways and the ironworks. However, he gradually deviated to philosophy, sociology, and politics and gained fame for his application of math to economic issues and his introduction of Pareto efficiency. Mind and Society remains his best-known work.

 28 Sophie Germain

Sophie Germain.
5
Famous As: Mathematician
Birthdate: April 1, 1776
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris
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.

 29 Georges Cuvier

Georges Cuvier.
4
Famous As: Naturalist
Birthdate: August 23, 1769
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montbéliard, France
Died: May 13, 1832

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.

 30 Marquis de Condorcet

Marquis de Condorcet.
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
Birthdate: September 17, 1743
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Ribemont, France
Died: March 28, 1794

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.

 31 Emmanuelle Charpentier

Emmanuelle Charpentier
4
Famous As: Researcher
Birthdate: December 11, 1968
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Juvisy-sur-Orge, France

 32 Charles Augustin De Coulomb

Charles Augustin De Coulomb.
3
Famous As: French physicist
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.

 33 Frédéric Joliot-Curie

Frédéric Joliot-Curie.
3
Famous As: Physicist
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.

 34 Charles Messier

Charles Messier.
4
Famous As: Astronomer
Birthdate: June 26, 1730
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Badonviller
Died: April 12, 1817

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.

 35 Émilie du Châtelet

Émilie du Châtelet
5
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 17, 1706
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 10, 1749

 36 Jacques Charles

Jacques Charles
3
Famous As: Physicist, Chemist, Inventor, Balloonist, Mathematician
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.

 37 Pierre Joliot

Pierre Joliot
4
Famous As: Biologist, Biochemist, Professor
Birthdate: March 12, 1932
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: 6th arrondissement of Paris

 38 Sadi Carnot

Sadi Carnot.
3
Famous As: Physicist and Scientist
Birthdate: June 1, 1796
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Luxembourg Palace
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.

 39 Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon.
3
Famous As: Naturalist
Birthdate: September 7, 1707
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montbard, France
Died: April 16, 1788

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.

 40 Katia Krafft

Katia Krafft
3
Famous As: Volcanologists
Birthdate: April 17, 1942
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Soultz-Haut-Rhin, France
Died: June 3, 1991

 41 Luc Montagnier

Luc Montagnier
7
Famous As: Physician, Biologist, Virologist, Researcher, Professor, Scientist
Birthdate: August 18, 1932
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chabris

French virologist Luc Montagnier is known for discovering the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which led him to jointly receive the 2008 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Montagnier also made headlines promoting controversial and unverified claims related to vaccinations, homeopathy and COVID-19 pandemic, which he argued as man-made and possibly a result of an attempt to create an HIV/AIDS vaccine.

 42 Jean Le Rond d’Alembert

Jean Le Rond d’Alembert.
3
Famous As: Mathematician, Philosopher
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.

 43 Joseph-Ignace Guillotin

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

 44 Éleuthère Irénée du Pont

Éleuthère Irénée du Pont
3
Famous As: Chemist
Birthdate: June 24, 1771
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 31, 1834

Éleuthère Irénée du Pont was the founder of the American gunpowder company E. I. du Pont de Nemours and Company and the patriarch of the famous du Pont family of businessmen. Born in France, du Pont had escaped to the U.S. with his family during the French Revolution. 

 45 Gustave Le Bon

Gustave Le Bon
3
Famous As: Physician, Anthropologist, Archaeologist, Psychologist, Philosopher, Historian, Sociologist
Birthdate: May 7, 1841
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nogent-le-Rotrou
Died: December 13, 1931

French social psychologist Gustave Le Bon is best remembered for his research on crowd psychology. In his iconic work La psychologie des foules, or The Crowd, he stated that people are driven by their emotions and not by their intellect when they act as part of a crowd.

 46 Pope Silvester II

Pope Silvester II
3
Famous As: Pope
Birthdate: 0946 AD
Birthplace: Auvergne
Died: May 12, 1003
A French-born scholar and teacher, Pope Sylvester II served as the bishop of Rome and ruled the Papal States from 999 to his death. He is known for endorsing and promoting study of Arab and Greco-Roman arithmetic, mathematics, and astronomy. Pope is said to be the first to introduce in Europe the decimal numeral system using the Arabic numeral system.

 47 Jacques Vallée

Jacques Vallée
3
Famous As: Scientist
Birthdate: September 24, 1939
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Pontoise, Val-d'Oise, France

Jacques Vallée is a French computer scientist, Internet pioneer, venture capitalist, astronomer, ufologist, and author. Vallée is credited with co-developing the first computerized map of Mars, which was used by NASA in the 1960s. An influential personality in the study of UFOs, Jacques Vallée has promoted such hypothesis as the interdimensional hypothesis.

 48 Matthieu Ricard

Matthieu Ricard
3
Famous As: Molecular biologist, Photographer, Bhikkhu, Writer, Translator
Birthdate: February 15, 1946
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Aix-les-Bains

 49 Claude Bernard

Claude Bernard.
3
Famous As: Physiologist
Birthdate: July 12, 1813
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Saint-Julien, France
Died: February 10, 1878

Claude Bernard was a French physiologist whose scientific experiments led to several important discoveries. He is credited with coining the phrase milieu intérieur, which refers to the extracellular fluid (ECF) environment. He also pioneered the use of a blinded experiment to eliminate various experimental biases.

 50 Paul Langevin

Paul Langevin
3
Famous As: Physicist, Professor, Chemist, Philosopher of science, Educationist, Non-fiction writer
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.