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Author photo. Courtesy of the <a href="http://digitalgallery.nypl.org/nypldigital/id?1238457">NYPL Digital Gallery</a> (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

Courtesy of the NYPL Digital Gallery (image use requires permission from the New York Public Library)

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Joseph Fourier was born at Auxerre, France, the son of a tailor, and was orphaned at age nine. He was educated by Benedictine monks, and took a job teaching mathematics at the École Royale Militaire, later the Collège Nationale, in Auxerre. He was imprisoned briefly during the Reign of Terror, but was released and appointed to teach at the École Normale Supérieure, and subsequently at the École Centrale, the future École Polytechnique in Paris. In 1798, he accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte as a scientific advisor on the Egypt campaign, and was appointed secretary of the Institut d'Égypte that Napoleon founded at Cairo. In 1801, he returned from Egyptian with a copy of the Rosetta Stone that he showed young Jean-Francois Champollion, who later became its translator. For his work in Egypt, Fourier received the Légion d'Honneur from Napoleon, who made him prefect (governor) of the Department of Isère in Grenoble. There he oversaw road construction and other projects for several years, and also began to conduct experiments on heat transfer. After overseeing the publication of the monumental Déscription de l'Egypte (1809), involving the work of 160 scholars and scientists, he was made a baron by the Emperor. In 1822, he published his pioneering work, Théorie analytique de la chaleur (The Analytic Theory of Heat). He showed how the conduction of heat in solid bodies may be analyzed in terms of infinite mathematical series now called the Fourier series in his honor. His books stimulated research in mathematical physics, and were highly influential. The Fourier transform and Fourier's Law also are named in his honor. He is also generally credited with discovery of the greenhouse effect. He was elected to the Académie française in 1826, and his name is one of the 72 scientists, engineers, and mathematicians inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.
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