1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Janssen, Pierre Jules César
JANSSEN, PIERRE JULES CÉSAR (1824–1907), French astronomer, was born in Paris on the 22nd of February 1824, and studied mathematics and physics at the faculty of sciences. He taught at the lycée Charlemagne in 1853, and in the school of architecture 1865–1871, but his energies were mainly devoted to various scientific missions entrusted to him. Thus in 1857 he went to Peru in order to determine the magnetic equator; in 1861–1862 and 1864, he studied telluric absorption in the solar spectrum in Italy and Switzerland; in 1867 he carried out optical and magnetic experiments at the Azores; he successfully observed both transits of Venus, that of 1874 in Japan, that of 1882 at Oran in Algeria; and he took part in a long series of solar eclipse-expeditions, e.g. to Trani (1867), Guntoor (1868), Algiers (1870), Siam (1875), the Caroline Islands (1883), and to Alcosebre in Spain (1905). To see the eclipse of 1870 he escaped from besieged Paris in a balloon. At the great Indian eclipse of 1868 he demonstrated the gaseous nature of the red prominences, and devised a method of observing them under ordinary daylight conditions. One main purpose of his spectroscopic inquiries was to answer the question whether the sun contains oxygen or not. An indispensable preliminary was the virtual elimination of oxygen-absorption in the earth’s atmosphere, and his bold project of establishing an observatory on the top of Mont Blanc was prompted by a perception of the advantages to be gained by reducing the thickness of air through which observations have to be made. This observatory, the foundations of which were fixed in the snow that appears to cover the summit to a depth of ten metres, was built in September 1893, and Janssen, in spite of his sixty-nine years, made the ascent and spent four days taking observations. In 1875 he was appointed director of the new astrophysical observatory established by the French government at Meudon, and set on foot there in 1876 the remarkable series of solar photographs collected in his great Atlas de photographies solaires (1904). The first volume of the Annales de l’observatoire de Meudon was published by him in 1896. He died at Paris on the 23rd of December 1907.
See A. M. Clerke, Hist. of Astr. during the 19th Century (1903); H. Macpherson, Astronomers of To-Day (1905).