Biography of Antoine-Cesar Becquerel (1788-1878)

Physicist and chemist French, born in Châtillon-sur-Loing in 1788 and died in Paris on January 18, 1878. Considered one of the fathers of electrochemistry, for having been the first to use an electrolytic process that managed to separate the metal components of a mineral, was the founder of one of the most illustrious dynasties of contemporary science.

His son, Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel (1822-1891), dealt with the study of light and successfully researched the photoelectric phenomenon; and his son (grandson of Antoine-Cesar) was the great physicist Antoine-Henri Becquerel (1852-1908), recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1903, which has gone down in history of science as the discoverer of the natural radioactivity.

The dynasty founded by Antoine-Cesar had continuity in their great-grandchildren (children of the prize Nobel Antoine-Henri) Jean (1878-1953) and Paul Becquerel (1879-1955). The first one, which was also a brilliant physicist, made great contributions to crystallography studies; for his part, Paul Becquerel, who excelled as a biologist, studied the effects of low temperatures on living beings and contributed to invalidate the theory of the radiopanspermia, by demonstrating the impossibility that germs travel through space under the impulse of light from the star radiation (since, if so, it would be destroyed by ultraviolet radiation(, low temperatures and vacuum almost absolute).

His father, Louis-Hector Becquerel, provided him with a splendid academic formation which soon allowed him to opt for scientific studies. He joined, so the École Polytechnique (Polytechnic School) of Paris in 1806, where he earned the title of engineer; and shortly after it was called by the Napoleonic army, which moved him in front of battle in Spain. For his services during the war of independence (1808-1814), reached the military grade of Chief of battalion.

On his return to France, the young Antoine-Cesar decided to devote itself fully to the scientific research, activity that, merced to their extraordinary longevity, could devote more than sixty years. He addressed, first of all, the study of Mineralogy, but soon became interested more for electricity and electrochemistry, to just paying attention also to biochemistry.

In 1819, Becquerel became the first scientist to sensed the existence of piezoelectricity (a phenomenon of electromechanical intetraccion reversible and linear, consisting of the appearance of polarization in a material due to a mechanical deformation). After more than six decades--specifically, in 1880, Pierre Curie (1859-1906) and his brother Jacques confirmed the existence of this phenomenon in the quartz and Rochelle salt.

Later, Antoine-Cesar Becquerel studied the conductivity of metals, atmospheric electricity and the phenomena electro-capilares, to stop being recognized as the creator of a new scientific discipline, electrochemistry. He was the first to use an electrolytic process to separate the metal from the ore in which is embedded, using a procedure consisting of passing an electric current through certain conductive substances (or electrolytes). This discovery made him the father of the discipline.

Another of his major findings, made in 1829, was the stack of constant current, exploited later by the British chemist John Frederic Daniell (1790-1845). For this and other inventions and discoveries of great importance for the development of contemporary science, was appointed member of the Academy of Sciences in 1829, and honored, eight years later, with the prestigious position of Professor of Physics of the Muséum d'Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum) in Paris, since that would succeed him, his son and his grandson. In addition, the sum of their contributions to the development of the chemistry and physics of the 19th century made him deserving, in 1875, of the prestigious Copley Medal, awarded by the Royal Society in England

The founder of the Becquerel dynasty also invented a thermo-electric needle, contraption consisting of a device capable of using the temperature difference between two points of a metallic material to produce an electric current. It is used to measure the internal temperature of the body.

Among his numerous scientific publications include - as a sign of the breadth of the fields that the scientist approached French - titled Treaty of electricity and magnetism (1834-1840), Treaty of physics and its relationship to chemistry (1842), elements of electrochemistry (1843), full of magnetism (1845) Treaty, elements of physical land and meteorology (1847) and the climates and the influence that have forest soils and forests (1853).