Person: De Coulomb, Charles Augustin
Charles Coulomb worked on applied mechanics but he is best known for his work on electricity and magnetism.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- At this stage in his education there was a crisis for Coulomb.
- At this stage Coulomb's interests were mainly in mathematics and astronomy and while in Montpellier he joined the Society of Sciences there in March 1757 and read several papers on these topics to the Society.
- Coulomb wanted to enter the École du Génie at Mézières but realised that to succeed in passing the entrance examinations he needed to be tutored.
- Camus had been appointed as examiner for artillery schools in 1755 and it was his "Cours de mathématiques" Ⓣ(A course of mathematics) that Coulomb studied for several months.
- In 1758 Coulomb took the examinations set by Camus which he passed and he entered the École du Génie at Mézières in February 1760.
- Coulomb graduated in November 1761.
- Coulomb was put in charge of the building of the new Fort Bourbon and this task occupied him until June 1772.
- As far as Coulomb's health was concerned these were difficult years and the illnesses which he suffered while on Martinique left him in poor health for the rest of his life.
- On his return to France, Coulomb was sent to Bouchain.
- Perhaps the most significant fact about this memoir from a mathematical point of view is Coulomb's use of the calculus of variations to solve engineering problems.
- A reason, perhaps, for the relative neglect of this portion of Coulomb's work was that he sought to demonstrate the use of variational calculus in formulating methods of approach to fundamental problems in structural mechanics rather than to give numerical solutions to specific problems.
- From Bouchain, Coulomb was next posted to Cherbourg.
- Coulomb developed a theory of torsion in thin silk and hair threads.
- Another interesting episode occurred during the time which Coulomb spent at Cherbourg.
- Coulomb wanted the state and the individual to play equal roles.
- In 1779 Coulomb was sent to Rochefort to collaborate with the Marquis de Montalembert in constructing a fort made entirely from wood near Ile d'Aix.
- During his time at Rochefort, Coulomb carried on his research into mechanics, in particular using the shipyards in Rochefort as laboratories for his experiments.
- His studies into friction in Rochefort led to Coulomb's major work on friction "Théorie des machines simples" Ⓣ(Theory of simple machines) which won him the Grand Prix from the Académie des Sciences in 1781.
- This 1781 memoir changed Coulomb's life.
- The importance of Coulomb's law for the development of electromagnetism is examined and discussed.
- These papers on electricity and magnetism, although the most important of Coulomb's work over this period, were only a small part of the work he undertook.
- Coulomb worked closely with Bossut, Borda, de Prony, and Laplace over this period.
- When the French Revolution began in 1789 Coulomb had been deeply involved with his scientific work.
- Many institutions were reorganised, not all to Coulomb's liking, and he retired from the Corps du Génie in 1791.
- Coulomb and Borda retired to the country to do scientific research in a house he owned near Blois.
- The Académie des Sciences was replaced by the Institut de France and Coulomb returned to Paris when he was elected to the Institute in December 1795.
- We mentioned above that Coulomb was involved with services to education.
Born 14 June 1736, Angoulême, France. Died 23 August 1806, Paris, France.
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Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive