Henri Becquerel Biography

(Physicist, Discoverer of Radioactivity)

Birthday: December 15, 1852 (Sagittarius)

Born In: Paris, France

Henri Becquerel was a French scientist, physicist and one of the most important personalities in the history of radioactive research. Becquerel belonged to a family of scientists and scholars. Both his father and grandfather were scientists, which is why it almost seemed like a natural progression for him to follow in their footsteps once he started attending his formal training in scientific studies at some of the best institutes in Paris. After completing his engineering degree he took up a job and at the same time he was deeply involved in phosphorescence research. Later, he directed his research towards discovering new radioactive elements. His research in the field of radioactivity won him the Nobel Prize for Physics in the year 1903. Henri Becquerel was deeply associated with the National Musuem of Natural History when his father was the chair of physics and following his stellar work as a researcher he became the chair of physics at the same institution. Becquerel is without doubt one of the greatest physicists in the field of radioactivity and the world of science will forever be indebted to him.
Quick Facts

French Celebrities Born In December

Also Known As: Antoine Henri Becquerel

Died At Age: 55


Spouse/Ex-: Louise Désirée Lorieux.

father: Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel

mother: A. E. Becquerel

children: Jean Becquerel

Physicists French Men

Died on: August 25, 1908

place of death: Le Croisic, Brittany, France

City: Paris

discoveries/inventions: Radioactivity

More Facts

education: École Polytechnique, École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées, Lycée Louis-le-Grand

awards: 1903 - Nobel Prize in Physics
- Copley Medal

Childhood & Early Life
Antoine Henri Becquerel was born to Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel and Aurelie Quenard in Paris, France, on 15 December, 1852. His father was a scientist and employed as a professor of Applied Physics. He belonged to a family of distinguished scholars and scientists.
He studied at the Lycee Louis-Le-Grand in Paris and right from the time he was in school he showed a particular liking for science subjects.
In 1872, at the age of 20 Henri Becquerel joined the Ecole Polytechnique, the premier French government institution, to study engineering. He graduated from the institute 2 years later.
In 1874, Henri Becquerel enrolled in the engineering course at the Ecole des Pontes at Claussees. He was awarded the degree 3 years later and that degree would prove to be the cornerstone of his research in later years.
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Upon graduating from the Ecole des Pontes at Claussees in the year 1877; the Department of Bridges and Highways of the French Government appointed him as an engineer. He continued to work at this department in spite of being involved in advanced scientific research for much of his career.
In 1876, he was appointed a junior teacher at his alma mater the Ecole Polytechnique and 19 years later he became the chair of the physics department at the institute. He had a keen interest in phosphorescence which dealt with the transformation of the colour of light after it is exposed to any particular body and he began his research in earnest pretty early. It was also the subject of Becquerel’s doctoral thesis.
Around the time that he had been appointed a teacher at the Ecole Polytechnique, he also became actively involved in the National Musuem of Natural History in Paris and was engaged in helping his father, who was then head of physics at the museum. Becquerel became the physics chair of the Museum in 1892.
He was involved in the research of such physical phenomena as infrared radiation, the process of how light is absorbed as well as the effect of infrared on phosphorescent crystals throughout his initial years and his findings led to him being made a member of the Academie des Sciences in 1889.
In 1896, he conducted several experiments in relation to radioactivity and successfully identified new radioactive elements other than uranium like polonium, radium and thorium. Becquerel won the Nobel Prize 7 years after he completed those experiments, which is without doubt one of the most significant findings in modern history.
Major Works
Henri Becquerel was engaged in scientific research for the better part of his adult life and during that time he not only came up with a lot of new findings but also held some important positions that led to further great work. However, nothing can really come close to his work on radioactive elements that won him the Nobel Prize.
Awards & Achievements
The Royal Society awarded Henri Becquerel the Rumford Medal in 1900 ‘for his discoveries in radiation proceeding from Uranium’.
The Berling-Bradenberg Academy of Sciences and Humanities awarded him the Helmholtz Medal in 1901.
The Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903 was shared by Henri Becquerel, Pierre Curies and Marie Sklodowska-Curie.
In 1905, he was awarded the Barnard Medal for Meritorious Service to Science by Columbia University.
Personal Life & Legacy
Henri Becquerel married a woman called Janin and the couple had only one child, a son who was born in 1878. His son was named Jean Becquerel and he went on to become a scientist as well.
Henri Becquerel died on 25 August, 1908 in Le Croisic at the age of 55.

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