André-Marie Ampère (January 20, 1775 – June 10, 1836), was a French physicist who is generally credited as one of the main discoverers of electromagnetism. The SI unit of measurement of electric current, the ampere, is named after him.

Early days

Ampère was born on January 20, 1775[1] in Lyon, France, and lived from 1775 to 1836 in the nearby burg of Poleymieux-au-Mont-d'Or. s. His father began to teach him Latin, but ceased on discovering the boy's greater inclination and aptitude for mathematical studies. The young Ampère, however, soon resumed his Latin lessons, to enable him to master the works of Euler and Bernoulli.

In later life he was accustomed to say that he knew as much about mathematics and science when he was eighteen as ever he knew; but, a polymath, his reading embraced nearly the whole round of knowledge — history, travels, poetry, philosophy and the natural sciences.

In 1796 he met Julie Carron, the daughter of a blacksmith living near Lyon, and an attachment sprang up between them. In 1799 they were married. From about 1796 Ampère gave private lessons at Lyon in mathematics, chemistry and languages; and in 1801 he removed to Bourg, as professor of physics and chemistry, leaving his ailing wife and infant son (Jean Jacques Ampère) at Lyon. She died in 1804, and he never recovered from her death. In the same year he was appointed professor of mathematics at the lycée of Lyon.

Ampère used to say that "at eighteen years he found three culminating points in his life, his First Communion, the reading of Thomas's "Eulogy of Descartes", and the Taking of the Bastille... On the day of his wife's death he wrote two verses from the Psalms, and the prayer, 'O Lord, God of Mercy, unite me in Heaven with those whom you have permitted me to love on earth.' Serious doubts harassed him at times, and made him very unhappy. Then he would take refuge in the reading of the Bible and the Fathers of the Church." [2]

Contributions to physics and further studies

Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre's recommendation obtained for him the Lyon appointment, and afterwards (1805) a minor position in the polytechnic school at Paris, where he was appointed professor of mathematics in 1809. Here he continued to pursue his scientific research and his diverse studies with unabated diligence. He was admitted as a member of the Institute in 1814.

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. On September 11, 1820 he heard of H. C. Ørsted's discovery that a magnetic needle is acted on by a voltaic current. Only a week later, on September 18, he presented a paper to the Academy containing a far more complete exposition of that and kindred phenomena.

Legacy and final days

The field of electromagnetism thus opened up, he explored with characteristic industry and care, and developed a mathematical theory which not only explained the electromagnetic phenomena already observed, but also predicted many new ones.

Ampère's final work, published posthumously, was "Essai sur la philosophie des sciences, ou exposition analytique d'une classification naturelle de toutes les connaissances humaines" ("Essay on the philosophy of science or analytical exposition on the natural classification of human knowledge").

Ampère died at Marseille and is buried in the Cimetière de Montmartre, Paris. The great amiability and childlike simplicity of his character are well brought out in his Journal et correspondence (Paris, 1872).


1. ^ Hormann, James R. (1996). André-Marie Ampère. Cambridge University Press, 8.

2. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia. Retrieved on 2007-12-29.

Further reading

* Hofmann, James R. (1996). André-Marie Ampère. Cambridge University Press.

* Williams, L. Pearce (1970). "Ampère, André-Marie". Dictionary of Scientific Biography 1. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons. 139-147. ISBN 0684101149.

André-Marie Ampère, James R. Hofmann


* Ampere and the history of electricity (Correspondence, bibliography, experiments, simulations, etc., edited by CNRS, France)
* Ampere's Museum (CNRS) is in Poleymieux-au-Mont-d'or, near Lyon, France
* O'Connor, John J; Edmund F. Robertson "André-Marie Ampère". MacTutor History of Mathematics archive.

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