Fourier, One Man, Several Lives

      Fourier was born 250 years ago, twenty-one years before the French Revolution in 1789. The events of those troubled times turned his life into an adventure novel: the Revolution with its mortal dangers; Bonaparte’s expedition to Egypt with its discoveries; Fourier2later a political career as prefect of Isère at Grenoble, where Fourier wrote the first versions of the Théorie analytique de la chaleur, when he was not busy with the construction of the road from Grenoble to Turin or the drainage of marshland at Bourgoin; and finally, his academic role at the very heart of the Parisian scientific community during the years 1820–1830. While relating a variety of aspects which are not all of scientific concern, we shall, of course, dedicate an important space to the theory of heat, Fourier’s major work, as well as to the Fourier series, which are a crucial element of his mathematics.

1) The Revolution, the Egypt campaign
2) Grenoble, Paris, the work
Trigonometric series
Competition for heat, enmities
Parisian Life
Reception of His Work: Riemann
Mathematical Physics or Pure Mathematics?

Author of the article is Bernard Maurey (Sorbonne Université, Paris, France).

We are sharing an article from EMS Newsletter (September 2019).


Full article can be downloaded here Fourier, One Man, Several Lives

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