Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

A physicist and mathematician, born at Paris, France, 21 April, 1774; died. there, 3 February, 1862. He studied at first at the College of Louis-le-Grand; in 1793 he joined the artillery of the Army of the North, but soon left the service to enter the École Polytechnique. After going to Beauvais as a professor in the central school of that city, he returned to Paris, in 1800, to occupy, at the age of 26, the chair of mathematical physics in the Collège de France. He had the distinction of ultimately belonging to three of the classes of the Institute; in 1803 he was admitted to the Academy of Sciences; in 1841, to the Academy of Inscriptions and Belles-Lettres; and in 1856, to the French Academy. After beginning his career as a mathematician and astronomer, he was assigned to the section of geometry in the Academy of Sciences. Among the interesting incidents in his career may be cited his ascension in a balloon with Gay-Lussac in 1804. They rose to a height of 13,000 feet for the purpose of studying the magnetic, electrical, and chemical condition of the atmosphere at various elevations.

Biot was actively engaged in the various branches of the geodetic work involved in the famous measurement of the quadrant of a meridian, for the purpose of standardizing the length of the new unit, the meter. As a member of the Bureau of Longitudes he went, in 1806, with young Arago, to Formentera, in the Balearic Islands, to resume the measurement of a degree of the meridian, interrupted by the death of Mechian. In 1808 he determined, with Mathieu, the length of the seconds pendulum at Bordeaux and Dunkirk. In 1817 he went to Scotland and the Shetland Islands to verify the geodetic operations of the English under Colonel Mudge. In 1824 he returned to Italy, Sicily, and Spain, in order to correct some of the observations of the year 1808. He contributed more than 250 memoirs to various societies and periodicals. This enormous work covers the entire field of experimental and mathematical physics, as well as ancient and modern astronomy. He was the champion of the corpuscular theory of light which he extended to some most ingenious explanations of the very complex phenomena of polarization. Biot discovered the laws of rotary polarization by crystalline bodies and applied these laws to the analysis of saccharine solutions. His fame rests chiefly on his work in polarization and double refraction of light.

Regular habits of study and recreation kept him in good health and led to a ripe old age. His mental attitude may be indicated by his opposition to the open meetings of the Academy; he feared the influence of the vulgar public upon the scientific tone of the Institute. Since he was brought up in the turbulent times of the Revolution, it is not surprising to find him among the insurgents, in 1795, attempting to overthrow the Convention. Again, in 1804, he succeeded at first in prevailing on the Institute not to vote for Bonaparte's elevation to the throne. He protested against the introduction of purely political matters into the deliberations of a scientific body. His religious views became more pronounced towards the end of his life. He is said to have received the Sacrament of Confirmation at the hands of his own grandson.

The more elaborate works of Biot are: "Traité de géometrie analytique", 1802 (8th ed., 1834); "Traité de physique expérimentale et mathématique", 4 vols., 1816; "Précis de physique", 2 vols., 1817; "Traité d'astronomie physique", 6 vols. with atlas, 1850; "Mélanges scientifiques et littéraires", 3 vols., 1858. The last is a compilation of a great many of his critiques, biographies, and accounts of voyages.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 2:19-22
19 So you are no longer aliens or foreign visitors; you are ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
2 day discourses of it to day, night to night hands on the ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 6:12-16
12 Now it happened in those days that he went onto the mountain to pray; ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 28th, 2016 Image

St. Jude Thaddaeus
October 28: St. Jude, known as Thaddaeus, was a brother of ... Read More