Person: Baillaud, Édouard Benjamin
Édouard Baillaud was a French astronomer who specialised in celestial mechanics, in particular the motions of the satellites of Saturn.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- His teachers suggested that he look for a position as a teacher but Baillaud had higher ambitions.
- Graduating from the lycée in Lyon, Baillaud entered the École Normale Supérieure.
- Baillaud graduated with a mathematics degree from the École Normale Supérieure in 1869 and was appointed to teach mathematics at the lycée in Montauban.
- Baillaud, as a teacher, was not called for military service in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71.
- Baillaud, who had succeeded Le Verrier as Professor of Astronomy at the University of Paris, was a candidate for the vacant post in Toulouse.
- In 1878, Baillaud was selected to be the Director of the Toulouse Observatory.
- He raised the number of chairs from 9 to 20, and was responsible for the appointment of to-be-famous scientists such as Marie Henri Andoyer, Marcel Brillouin, Eugène Cosserat, Édouard Goursat, Gabriel Koenigs, Thomas Stieltjes and Ernest Vessiot in addition to Émile Picard.
- One of Baillaud's most impressive contributions to astronomy came after 1903, when the Toulouse Observatory took over the facility on the Pic du Midi, a mountain in the French Pyrenees.
- Upon the Toulouse take-over, Baillaud organised a team of soldiers to erect a 20in/0.5m reflecting telescope, and a 10in/0.25m refracting telescope on the summit.
- It is thanks to Baillaud that this facility was in operation.
- There were several candidates but the close call came between Baillaud and Guillaume Bigourdan.
- On 17 December 1907 some newspapers reported, prematurely, that Bigourdan had almost certainly won but when the official announcement came on 6 January 1908 it was Baillaud who was declared the new Director of the Paris Observatory.
- Baillaud hosted a conference at the Observatory with entertainment in the form of singers from the Paris Opera, and refreshments of wine provided by the Bordeaux Observatory.
- For two years from 1909, Baillaud served as the President of the French Astronomical Society (Société astronomique de France).
- Baillaud held a keen interest in time standardisation, promoting Universal Time, the time standard based on the Earth's rotation.
- Baillaud initialised the transmission of a time signal from the Eiffel Tower, and maintained the Observatory and time signal throughout the First World War, despite the fact that the German howitzer, Big Bertha, had its nominal coordinates for Paris set to the location of the Observatory.
- Baillaud was one of the most involved of those responsible for the creation of the International Astronomical Union, combining the Carte du Ciel Ⓣ(Map of the sky), the Solar Union and the Bureau International de l'Heure, and he was elected as the founding president, serving from 1919 to 1922.
- Baillaud retired as Director of the Paris Observatory in 1926, and was awarded with the title of Honorary Director.
- Baillaud's lifetime of work in astronomy did not go unrecognised: in 1923, he won the Bruce Medal from the Astronomical Society of the Pacific; he was awarded the honorary degree of Sc.D. (Doctor of Science) by the University of Cambridge; there is a crater on the moon named after him (Baillaud, approved 1935) as well as the asteroids 11764 Benbaillaud and 1280 Baillauda.
- Baillaud died on 8 July 1934 and has been remembered as a remarkable professor with a great amount of administrative proficiency.
- Four years after his death, the Alumni Association of the Middle School of Chalon-sur-Saône began work to place a bronze bust of Baillaud in the Courthouse Square.
Born 14 February 1848, Chalon-sur-Saône, France. Died 8 July 1934, Toulouse, France.
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive