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Leon Foucault, also known as Jean Foucault, was a French physicist whose “Foucault pendulum” provided experimental proof that Earth is revolving on its axis. He also invented and helped develop a method of highly precise measurement of the absolute speed of light.
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Key Facts & Information
- Jean Bernard Lèon Foucault was born on September 18, 1819 in Paris.
- His father was an editor and a bookseller.
- Lèon had been a frail child during the first years of his life. He attended Stanislas College where he became friends with colleague Hippolyte Fizeau. Lèon did not apply himself to college but was fond of building toys and machines.
- His family thought he was going to be a good surgeon, so in 1839 Jean went on to study medicine. However, he developed a phobia of blood and dropped medicine to study physics.
- For three years, Lèon Foucault became an experimental assistant to bacteriologist Alfred Donne, who worked with him during his microscopic anatomy lectures.
- Louis Daguerre, also a Frenchman, conceived a photographic process called the “daguerreotype” during this time and Foucault was interested in this photographic process.
- Foucault improved on this method of photography and developed a process for taking photographs via a microscope lens. Those photographs were published in 1845 in “A course of microscopy.”
- Foucault also worked closely with his old school friend Hippolyte Fizeau and they took pictures of the sun together, their photographs showed sunspots very clearly. They also performed several experiments on the strength of light from the sun as opposed to other light forms. They also conducted work on infrared radiation interference.
- In 1850, Foucault did an experiment using an optical apparatus called “Fizeau-Foucault,” so that he could measure light speed. He determined a value within 1 percent of the appropriate amount.
- Also, Foucault’s showed that light actually travels more slowly in water than when it travels through air. His light studies ended Newton’s corpuscular theory of light (that light was made of particles) with a convincing conclusion.
- In 1851, Foucault proved that Earth rotates around its axis by observing the motion of a heavy iron ball swinging from a wire 67 meters (220 feet ) in length. A “Foucault pendulum” like this still swings in the same vertical direction.
- The experiment was a big success, and the masses and academic crowd were both amazed.
- It wasn’t that long before “Foucault pendulums” were seen hanging in Europe’s biggest cities, and even in America, where large crowds were attracted.
- In year 1852, Foucault made use of (and named) gyroscopes in experiments. In 1855, the Royal Society awarded him the prestigious Copley Medal in recognition of his excellent studies and research. He was also given the role of physicist at the Imperial Observatory in Paris that same year.
- He made another remarkable discovery in September of the same year; that the force needed to rotate copper disks increases if they are made to turn with their rims positioned within a strong magnetic field.
- He also found that the disks began to heat up due to the copper’s eddy current (Foucault currents).
- Foucault invented a polarizer calcite prism in 1857, and a test for mirrors used in telescopes in 1858. This “Foucault knife-edge” test determined whether a mirror was totally spherical, or whether it had defects.
- The Foucault pendulum, a relatively large mass suspended from a long line mounted in such a way that its perpendicular plane of swing is not confined to a particular direction and actually rotates in relation to the surface of the Earth.
- In 1851, Leon Foucault assembled the first pendulum type in Paris, which consisted of a 28-kg iron ball suspended from inside the Panthéon dome by a 67-meter steel wire and set in motion by drawing the ball to one side and carefully releasing it to start swinging in a plane.
- The rotation of the Foucault pendulum swing plane was the first laboratory example of the Earth’s spin on its axis.
LATER YEARS AND DEATH
- In later years, Foucault received many honors. In 1862, he was made a member of London’s Bureau des Longitudes and Royal Society in 1864.
- He also published papers on his observations and improvements regarding the centrifugal speed governor of James Watt.
- Foucault showed people a way of viewing the sun without injuring their eyes, by placing a transparent silver film on the outer corner of a telescope’s object glass.
- In 1867, Foucault became ill and quickly deteriorated. He died at the age of 48 on February 11, 1868 and was buried inside the Parisian cemetery of Montmartre. It has been said that his death was likely caused by extreme multiple sclerosis.
Leon Foucault Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the Leon Foucault across 20 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Leon Foucault worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about Leon Foucault, also known as Jean Foucault, who was a French physicist whose “Foucault pendulum” provided experimental proof that Earth is revolving on its axis. He also invented and helped develop a method of highly precise measurement of the absolute speed of light.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Leon Foucault Facts
- Biographical Profile
- History Timeline
- Letter Clues
- Foucault Pendulum
- Travel of Light
- Word Guessing
- L.F. Page
- Inventions & Theory
- Early Findings
- Light to Life
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Use With Any Curriculum
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