Person: Barbier, Joseph Émile
Joseph-Émile Barbier was a French astronomer and mathematician.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Barbier began his studies at the École Normale Supérieure in 1857 and there he impressed everyone with his deep understanding of mathematics.
- Having received his licentiate Barbier proceeded toward his "agregation".
- An appointment in Nice might have been attractive but Barbier's keen mind and the subtlety which he saw in even elementary mathematics did not make him a good teacher since the pupils in the Lycée in Nice failed to gain anything from Barbier.
- He was offered a post at the Paris Observatory by Le Verrier and Barbier left Nice to begin work as an assistant astronomer.
- As time went by, however, Barbier's behaviour became more and more peculiar.
- Bertrand discovered that although Barbier was clearly unstable mentally, he was still able to make superb original contributions to mathematics.
- He encouraged Barbier to return to scientific writing and, although he never recovered his sanity, he wrote many excellent and original mathematical papers.
- Bertrand, as Secretary to the Académie des Sciences, was able to find a small source of income for Barbier from a foundation which was associated with the Académie.
- Barbier, although mentally unstable, was a gentle person and it was seen that, with his small income, it was possible for him to live in the community.
- This was arranged and Barbier spent his last few years in much more pleasant surroundings.
- Barbier's early work, while at the Observatory, consists of over twenty memoirs and reports.
- We mentioned above his work with devising a new type of thermometer and Barbier wrote on this as well as on other aspects of instruments.
- After he was encouraged to undertake research in mathematics again by Bertrand, Barbier wrote over ten articles between the years 1882 and 1887.
Born 18 March 1839, St Hilaire-Cottes, Pas-de-Calais, France. Died 28 January 1889, St Genest, Loire, 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