Gabriel Lippmann Biography

Gabriel Lippmann was a French physicist and inventor. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1908. This biography of Lippmann provides detailed information about his childhood, life, research, achievements and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: August 16, 1845

Nationality: French

Famous: Physicists French Men

Died At Age: 75

Sun Sign: Leo

Born in: Bonnevoie/Bouneweg, Luxembourg (since 1921 part of Luxembourg City)

Famous as: Physicist & Nobel Laureate


father: Isaïe

mother: Miriam Rose Levy

Died on: July 13, 1921

place of death: SS France, Atlantic Ocean

discoveries/inventions: Lippmann Colour, Photography, Integral 3-D Photography, Lippmann Electrometer

More Facts

education: École Normale Supérieure

awards: Nobel Prize for Physics (1908)

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Gabriel Lippmann was a French physicist and inventor. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1908. His papers on electricity, optics, thermodynamics and photochemistry are considered very valuable for future evolutions. Many of his ideas and theories have led to the improvement of devices used in physics. A large number of modern technologies such as laser holography and others have their roots in his findings. The extremely sensitive device known as the capillary electrometer found its use in an important medical instrument like the ECG machine. Most of his works are recorded in the communications that he had with the ‘Paris Academy of Sciences’ which are still considered to be concise and original. Many branches of physics were helped by the various ingenious devices he made to improve the performance of standard instruments. Of all the theories and processes that he contributed to the study of physics, the capture of colored images of objects was the greatest, for which he became very famous throughout the scientific world. This process won him the Noble Prize for Physics in 1908. His experiments in different aspects on physical activities led to a large number of inventions that took place in the future.

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Childhood & Early Life
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  • Gabriel Lippmann was appointed by the French government in 1873 to go on a mission to the Heidelberg University in Germany to understand the methods that were used to teach science subjects. Here he specialized in electricity with the help of Gustav Kirchoff.
  • He received his doctorate in 1874. In Berlin he worked with Helmholtz as well.
  • He returned to Paris in 1875 and continued his studies further on subjects related to physics.
  • On July 24, 1875 he submitted his PhD thesis on electro-capillarity to the Sorborne. In 1878 he became a professor of physics at the Sorbonne.
  • He joined the ‘Faculty of Science’ in Paris in 1878.
  • In 1881 he predicted the reverse effect of the piezoelectric phenomenon. This reverse phenomenon was later used to produce ultrasonic sound waves and other applications.
  • On January 17, 1883, he presented a paper on the invention of the capillary electrometer to the ‘Philosophical Society of Glasgow.’ The ‘Lippmann Electrometer’ was later used in the first ECG machine.
  • He became a professor of Mathematical Physics in 1883.
  • In 1886 he succeeded Jamin to become the Director of the ‘Research Laboratory’ after becoming a professor in ‘Experimental Physics’. He held this position till his death. The laboratory was transferred later to Sorborne.
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  • In 1886 he evolved a process in support of his theory for the reproduction of the colors of objects through photography without using any dye or pigment. However, it was very difficult to execute the process practically.
  • In 1891 he was able to present the method to the ‘Academy of Sciences’ after conducting a large number of experiments. The photographs were slightly defective owning to the sensitivity of the photographic film that differed in many areas.
  • In April 1892 he declared that he had been able to obtain the colored images of flags, oranges with red poppies, parrots with different colors without any deterioration in the quality of their colors.
  • In 1893 he was able to obtain a much better result for his method with photographs taken by A. and L. Lumiere. This time perfect colors were produced.
  • He published the complete theory of the process in 1894.
  • In 1895 Lippmann used photographic registration to remove the irregularities that occurred with pendulum clocks.
  • In 1906 he submitted another paper on the improved process of capturing colored images of items to the ‘Academy of Sciences’.
  • His experiments on color photography also contributed to the development of laser holography in the future.
  • He invented the device known as ‘coelostat’ that could immobilize the image of a star in the sky and its surroundings so that it could be photographed perfectly.
  • He is also responsible for improvements to many devices that are used in the study of physics that helped students later.
  • In 1908 he introduced the concept of integral photography where a number of lenses were kept in a single array to take a picture of a real life scene. The same scene seen through another similar array of lenses produced an integrated three dimensional image. This led to the evolution of microscope and light-field camera technologies.
  • He became the President of the ‘Academy of Sciences’ in 1912.
  • He became a member of the ‘Board of the Bureau des Longitudes’ and also a ‘Foreign Member’ of the ‘Royal Society of London’ during this time.
Awards & Achievements
  • Gabriel Lippmann received the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1908 for his work on the reproduction of colors in photography with the help of the interference phenomenon.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • He had married the daughter of V. Cherbuliez, a writer and member of the ‘French Academy’.
  • Gabriel Lippmann died on July 13, 1921 on board the vessel ‘France’ while returning from Canada where he had gone as a member of a mission headed by Marshall Fayolle.

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Gabriel Lippmann

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