1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Biot, Jean Baptiste

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17330271911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 3 — Biot, Jean Baptiste

BIOT, JEAN BAPTISTE (1774–1862), French physicist, was born at Paris on the 21st of April 1774. After serving for a short time in the artillery, he was appointed in 1797 professor of mathematics at Beauvais, and in 1800 he became professor of physics at the Collège de France, through the influence of Laplace, from whom he had sought and obtained the favour of reading the proof sheets of the Mécanique céleste. Three years later, at an unusually early age, he was elected a member of the Academy of Sciences, and in 1804 he accompanied Gay Lussac on the first balloon ascent undertaken for scientific purposes. In 1806 he was associated with F. J. D. Arago, with whom he had already carried out investigations on the refractive properties of different gases, in the measurement of an arc of the meridian in Spain, and in subsequent years he was engaged in various other geodetic determinations. In 1814 he was made chevalier and in 1849 commander, of the Legion of Honour. He failed in his ambition of becoming perpetual secretary of the Academy of Sciences, but was somewhat consoled by his election as a member of the French Academy in 1856. He died in Paris on the 3rd of February 1862. His researches extended to almost every branch of physical science, but his most important work was of an optical character. He was especially interested in questions relating to the polarization of light, and his observations in this field, which gained him the Rumford medal of the Royal Society in 1840, laid the foundations of the polarimetric analysis of sugar.

Biot was an extremely prolific writer, and besides a great number of scientific memoirs, biographies, &c., his published works include: Analyse de la mécanique céleste de M. Laplace (1801); Traité analytique des courbes et des surfaces du second degré (1802); Recherches sur l’intégration des équations différentielles partielles et sur les vibrations des surfaces (1803); Traité de physique (1816); Recueil d’observations géodésiques, astronomiques et physiques exécutées en Espagne et Écosse, with Arago (1821); Mémoire sur la vraie constitution de l’atmosphère terrestre (1841); Traité élémentaire d’astronomie physique (1805); Recherches sur plusieurs points de l’astronomie égyptienne (1823); Recherches sur l’ancienne astronomie chinoise (1840); Études sur l’astronomie indienne et sur l’astronomie chinoise (1862); Essai sur l’histoire générale des sciences pendant la Révolution (1803); Discours sur Montaigne (1812); Lettres sur l’approvisionnement de Paris et sur le commerce des grains (1835); Mélanges scientifiques et littéraires (1858).

His son, Edouard Constant Biot (1803–1850), after amassing a competence from railway engineering, turned to the study of Chinese subjects, and published Causes de l’abolition de l’esclavage ancien en occident (1840); Dictionnaire des noms anciens et modernes des villes et des arrondissements compris dans l’empire chinois (1842); Essai sur l’histoire de l’instruction publique en Chine et de la corporation des lettres (1847); Mémoire sur les colonies militaires et agricoles des chinois (1850).