Person: Bigourdan, Guillaume
Guillaume Bigourdan was a French astronomer who spent twenty years reviewing and describing the positions of 6380 nebulae. He discovered about 500 new objects.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Tisserand was made Director of the Paris Observatory, bringing Bigourdan to Paris with him in 1879.
- In Paris, Bigourdan had the opportunity to take charge of the great equatorial telescope.
- Bigourdan was also a participant in expeditions.
- Bigourdan made the first of two series of observations between 18 April 1902 and 29 June 1902.
- The first task carried out by Bigourdan was to examine the operation of the instruments.
- Bigourdan noticed imperfections in his measuring device.
- Bigourdan therefore studied the behaviour of the level in order to be able to correct the readings made in the longitude operations.
- There were several candidates but the close call came between Bigourdan and Benjamin Baillaud.
- Both were members of the Academy of Sciences but Bigourdan was a full member while Baillaud was only a corresponding member.
- Bigourdan had worked at the Paris Observatory for 28 years and regularly attended meetings of the Academy of Sciences.
- Henri Poincaré considered Bigourdan a collaborator and even informed Baillaud that he intended to vote for Bigourdan.
- There was no doubt that Bigourdan had produced the greater amount of research but Baillaud had the most experience as an administrator and had achieved great things in this capacity.
- Bigourdan wrote on 23 December 1907 saying, "some accuse me of being capable of acts of intolerance", and defended himself from that accusation.
- On 17 December 1907 some newspapers had 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.
- Bigourdan also held a keen interest in the transmission of time signals by wireless.
- In 1911, France switched from a time zone centred at Paris to one centred at Greenwich, London and Bigourdan helped establish the new time zone.
- After conferences in Paris in 1912 and 1913, the International Time Service was founded, with a bureau in Paris of which Bigourdan was given the directorship.
- After the First World War, Bigourdan remained director keeping in close touch with Benjamin Baillaud and General Ferrié, other figureheads in the time-keeping spheres of interest.
- Bigourdan was recognised for his work and achievements in the form of titles and awards.
- From its commencement in 1919, Bigourdan served as director of the Bureau International de l'Heure.
- The manuscript was lost, before being found by Bigourdan at the Paris Observatory under an incorrect title.
- Bigourdan has been credited with a method for adjusting equatorial mount telescopes.
- Bigourdan's Method allows the setting up of a telescope mount when one cannot locate the celestial pole and does not know the latitude of the place.
- They got bored on this old farm, in the countryside; Guillaume Bigourdan, however, came alone every summer to spend a few weeks.
Born 6 April 1851, Sistels, Tarn-et-Garonne, France. Died 28 February 1932, Paris, 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