Andre-Marie Ampere French Physicist and Mathematician

Brief biography of French scientist André-Marie Ampère who laid the foundation of electromagnetism, he called electrodynamics. André-Marie Ampère is best known for his significant contributions to the study of electrodynamics by establishing the relations between electricity and magnetism. It was Ampère who gave the first mathematical treatment of electromagnetism, which was discovered by Hans Christian Oersted.

Ampère’s name is given to the basic unit of electric current, ampere (amp.)

Early Life of Ampère

André-Marie Ampère was born in Lyons, France, on January 20, 1775. He was the son of Jean-Jacques Ampère and Jeanne-Antoinette (née Desutiès-Sarcey), wealthy dealers of silk. Just before marriage, his father acquired a country estate at Poleymieux-les-Monts-d’Or. This became the family’s permanent home after his father retired from business in 1782. Ampère had two sisters, the older one, Antoniette, and a younger sister, Josephine.

His father’s interests in Latin, French literature, science and the philosophy of Rousseau were encouraged with him, and his father saw to it that André-Marie himself was educated the same by reading books from their extensive private library.

Ampere displayed unusual powers of concentration and memory, and read his way through Diderot’s encyclopaedia. As a boy, Ampère already showed great interest in geometry and sought the books of Euclid. Since some of the books were in Latin, he taught himself the language in order to be able to study the world of Euler and his contemporaries. He read the Mécanique analytique of Lagrange and worked through the calculations it contains.

Major Life Influence

Ampère described the three major events that influenced him throughout his life: first, his communion, which established in him the faith of his fathers, second, the Eulogy of Descartes, that instilled in him a belief in the nobility of a life in science, and third, the fall of Bastille, which decided his political sentiments all his life.

As a result of the French Revolution, his father, who became magistrate and presiding office of the police tribunal in Lyon, was killed by guillotine. The devastating experience left Ampère averse to violence. His mother, a deeply religious woman, took charge of his education. In 1799, he married Cathérine-Antoinette Julie Carron and they had one son, Jean-Jacques, the next year.

Scientific Work

Ampère’s fame mainly rests on the service that he rendered to science in establishing the relations between electricity and magnetism, and in developing the science of electromagnetism, or, as he called it, electrodynamics.

In the early 1800s, Ampere began publishing his first memoirs in mathematics. He also undertook private tutoring of mathematics and teaching at local schools. He became a professor of physics and chemistry at the Ecole Centrale du department de l’Ain at Bourg-en-Bresse. While he was living in Bourg, his wife Julie was miles away in Lyon. In 1803 she died, a kind of malignancy, leaving their three-year-old son in his care.

Ampère continued to hold some posts. In 1808 he was appointed Inspector-General of the Imperial University and elected to the chair of experimental physics at the College de France in 1824. Along with his positions, he completed a significant memoir on partial differential equations in 1814.

Foundation of Electrodynamics

On September 11, 1820, Ampere heard of Oersted’s discovery that a magnetic needle is acted on by a current. A week later, he presented a full paper to the Academy about his own findings. He demonstrated that parallel wires carrying currents either attract or repel each other depending whether currents are in the same or in opposite directions. This laid the groundwork for the science of electrodynamics or electromagnetism.

Last Years

In the last 10 years of his life, while Faraday was busy with his own related experiments, Ampère was gradually losing his interest. Financial problems became a daily concern. They were due partly to his expenditure on scientific instruments. Sadly, his scientific work came under criticism, with only colleague Joseph Fourier taking his theories favourably. After 1829, his scientific creativity came to an end, and his health began to deteriorate. Ampère died from pneumonia in Marseille, on June 10, 1836. The house at Poleymieux is now a national museum.

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