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Fresnel, Augustin Jean

light theory consisted waves

[fraynel] (1788–1827) French physicist: established and developed the wave theory of light.

When the French Revolution arrived Fresnel’s father took his family to a small estate near Caen. After showing his practical skills Fresnel entered the École Polytechnique and, despite ill-health, gained distinction. He qualified as an engineer at the École des Ponts et Chaussées, but was removed from his post during 1815 for supporting the Royalists. He spent the Hundred Days of Napoleon’s return at leisure in Normandy, and began his main work on the wave theory of light.

He performed some new experiments on interference and polarization effects.Had suggested that light consisted of longitudinal waves; in order to explain polarization effects Fresnel replaced this with a theory of light as transverse waves. He steadily established his theory as able to account for light’s observed behaviour.

Fresnel also applied his skills to the development of more effective lighthouses. The old optical system for them consisted of metal reflectors and he introduced stepped lenses (Fresnel lenses). This work still forms the basis of modern lighthouse design. Fresnel was made a member of the Académie des Sciences (1823) and of the Royal Society of London (1827).

Freston, Tom - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: Tom Freston [next]

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