André-Marie Ampère


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Background Information

Born on January 22, 1775 in Lyon, France, Andre was brought up in a prosperous family during the French Enlightenment era. His father was an admirer of Jean- Jacques Rousseau, which is where the basics of his education came from.The French Revolution caused trauma for Andre, his father had been appointed Justice by the new law. Whenever the Jacobin began to come around Jean- Jacques resisted against the new ideas and was guillotined. Although that had happened the French Revolution also brought new institutions of science and he was able to get his first formal job as a mathematics teacher and was able to marry and have his first child. When the Napoleonic regime took power, he was able to find new opportunities of success through the technocratic structures which was favored by the new emperor. His first ever formal job was teaching mathematics at a school. In 1802 Ampère was appointed a professor of physics and chemistry at the École Centrale in Bourg-en-Bresse. He used his time in Bourg to research mathematics, making the treatise on the Considerations on the Mathematical Theory of Games. In addition to holding positions at this school until 1828, during 1819 and 1820 he offered courses in philosophy and astronomy at the University of Paris. In 1824 he was elected to the chair of experimental physics at the College of France. Working for 7 years between 1920 and 1927 on his discovery of electrodynamics. Unfortunately in 1936, Andre Marie Ampere died in Marseille, France.


Growing up Andre never attended formal education but was self- taught by the extensive library of Enlightenment literature. When he was 12 he taught himself advanced mathematics through textbooks. He had not received any sort of college education.

Contributions to Science

His main contribution to science was developing the theory between electricity and magnets which was called electrodynamics or electromagnetism. His name endures in everyday life in the ampere, the unit for measuring electric current. He also applied mathematics in generalizing physical laws from these experimental results. Most important was the principle that came to be called Ampère’s law, which states that the mutual action of two lengths of current-carrying wire is proportional to their lengths and to the intensities of their currents. Ampère also applied this same principle to magnetism, showing the harmony between his law and French physicist Charles Augustin de Coulomb’s law of magnetic action. In 1827 he published a magnum opus, titled Memoir on the Mathematical Theory of Electrodynamic Phenomena, Uniquely Deduced from Experience. After his work was published he closed what was feverish seven years, and soon his health began to fail and he passed away before the boom of his science.