Sunday, March 21, 2010


The smug looking fellow above is one Joseph Fourier born this day 1768, in Auxerre, France. I have to admit that before today, I knew fuck all about M. Fourier, but sometimes research pays off, and a hero emerges from the mists of time to take their place in the hero parade. Today was looking a bit grim in the hero list, and I had to do a lot of reading, and hoping that someone, ANYONE would show up, and take the hero mantle. He was born the son of a tailor, but was orphaned at the age of ten. His education was provided for by a recommendation of the Bishop of Auxerre, and he put it to good use. He managed to get himself attached to Napoleon's expedition to Egypt, and was eventually made governor of Lower Egypt. Of course, that little expedition did not go exactly as planned, and Fourier was shipped back to France by the victorious British. Upon his return, he became prefect of a department of France, and begin to make the discoveries that would make him famous. That research had something to do with the transfer of heat between two bodies, and I must confess that much of it is a bit like Greek to me, but people smarter than me have labeled his results as "Fourier's Law." I do know enough to know that you do not get "laws" with your name attached to them by being a dullard. I do have a slightly firmer grasp on his other "claim to fame." He is generally regarded as "discovering" the Greenhouse Gas Effect. That gases in the atmosphere might increase the surface temperature of the Earth. This he sorted out in 1824! All the literature that is spewing forth, both for and against this idea can be traced back to his experiments, and his papers on the subject. Not bad for an orphan that started as the son of a tailor. He was convinced that heat was essential for a healthy body, and advocated keeping yourself wrapped in blankets. He died after tripping, and falling down a flight of stairs, let's hope for his sake that he did not trip over a blanket. But, for making those observations that now bear his name, and showing the world that an poor orphan can make good, Joseph Fourier (March 21st, 1768-May 16th, 1830, at the age of 62), you are my (207th) hero of the day.

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