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Monday, 1 October 2012

André-Marie Ampère

André-Marie Ampère (20 January 1775 – 10 June 1836) was a French physicist andmathematician who is generally regarded as one of the main founders of the science ofclassical electromagnetism, which he referred to as "electrodynamics". The SI unit of measurement of electric current, the ampere, is named after him.
Ampère was born on 20 January 1775 to Jean-Jacques Ampère, a prosperous businessman, and Jeanne Antoinette Desutières-Sarcey Ampère during the height of theFrench Enlightenment. He spent his childhood and adolescence at the family property atPoleymieux-au-Mont-d'Or near Lyon. Jean-Jacques Ampère, a successful merchant, was an admirer of the philosophy of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, whose theories of education (as outlined in his treatise Émile) were the basis of Ampère’s education. Rousseau believed that young boys should avoid formal schooling and pursue instead an “education direct from nature.” Ampère’s father actualized this ideal by allowing his son to educate himself within the walls of his well-stocked library. French Enlightenment masterpieces such asGeorges-Louis Leclerc, comte de Buffon’s Histoire naturelle, générale et particulière (begun in 1749) and Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d'Alembert’s Encyclopédie (volumes added between 1751 and 1772) thus became Ampère’s schoolmasters. The young Ampère, however, soon resumed his Latin lessons, which enable him to master the works ofLeonhard Euler and Daniel Bernoulli.
Work in electromagnetism
In September of 1820, Ampère’s friend and eventual eulogist François Arago showed the members of the French Academy of Sciences the surprising discovery of Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted that a magnetic needle is deflected by an adjacent electric current. Ampère begun developing a mathematical and physical theory to understand the relationship between electricity and magnetism. Furthering Ørsted’s experimental work, Ampère showed that two parallel wires carrying electric currents attract or repel each other, depending on whether the currents flow in the same or opposite directions, respectively - this laid the foundation of electrodynamics. He also applied mathematics in generalizing physical laws from these experimental results. The most important of these was the principle that came to be called Ampère’s law, which states that the mutual action of two lengths of current-carrying wire is proportional to their lengths and to the intensities of their currents. Ampère also applied this same principle to magnetism, showing the harmony between his law and French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb’s law of magnetic action. Ampère’s devotion to, and skill with, experimental techniques anchored his science within the emerging fields of experimental physics.
Ampère also provided a physical understanding of the electromagnetic relationship, theorizing the existence of an “electrodynamic molecule” (the forerunner of the idea of the electron) that served as the component element of both electricity and magnetism. Using this physical explanation of electromagnetic motion, Ampère developed a physical account of electromagnetic phenomena that was both empirically demonstrable and mathematically predictive. In 1827 Ampère published his magnum opus, Mémoire sur la théorie mathématique des phénomènes électrodynamiques uniquement déduite de l’experience (Memoir on the Mathematical Theory of Electrodynamic Phenomena, Uniquely Deduced from Experience), the work that coined the name of his new science, electrodynamics, and became known ever after as its founding treatise. In 1827 he was elected a Foreign Member of the Royal Society and in 1828, a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science. In recognition of his contribution to the creation of modern electrical science, an international convention signed in 1881 established the ampere as a standard unit of electrical measurement, along with the coulomb, volt, ohm, and watt, which are named, respectively, after Ampère’s contemporaries Charles-Augustin de Coulomb of France,Alessandro Volta of Italy, Georg Ohm of Germany, and James Watt of Scotland.

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