Joseph Fourier

French mathematician and physicist (1768 – 1830)

Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (21 March 1768 – 30 May 1830) was a French mathematician and physicist. He is best known for starting the investigation of Fourier series. He used them for work on problems of heat flow. Fourier also helped the discovery of the greenhouse effect, by suggesting the atmosphere might act as an insulator.[1]

Joseph Fourier
Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier
Born(1768-03-21)21 March 1768
Died16 May 1830(1830-05-16) (aged 62)
Alma materÉcole Normale
Known forFourier transform
Greenhouse effect
Scientific career
FieldsMathematician, physicist, and historian
InstitutionsÉcole Normale
École Polytechnique

Fourier was born at Auxerre as the son of a tailor. He lost both his parents at the age of 9. He then went on to study at the Convent of St Mark.

He joined the military academy in Auxerre. Aged sixteen, he became a teacher. At age 26, he entered the École normale supérieure in Paris. People like Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Gaspard Monge, and Pierre-Simon de Laplace were among his teachers.

He took part in the French Revolution of 1789. During the Reign of Terror he was almost executed at the guillotine, but the death of Robespierre saved him this fate. He later took part in the French campaign in Egypt and Syria.

Later, as a diplomat, he is put in charge of the scientific background of the Institut d'Égypte. On his return, Napoleon put him in charge of the Isère department.

In 1810, Fourier created the university in Grenoble, and becomes its first head. In 1817, Fourier became a Member of the Académie des Sciences. On the death of Jean-Baptiste Joseph Delambre in 1822 he became head of the mathematics section. In 1826, Fourier was elected to the Académie française.


  1. Cowie, J. (2007). Climate Change: biological and human aspects. Cambridge University Press. p. 3. ISBN 978-0-521-69619-7.

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