Physicist, b. at St-Quentin, France, 12 July, 1817; d. at Paris, 3 May, 1885. He made his literary studies at the Collège des Bons-Enfants in his native town and then entered the Lycée Louis-le-Grand in Paris. Here he distinguished himself, taking the first prize in physics. In 1835 he entered the science section of the Ecole Normale where his brother Edouard had preceded him. He made the acquaintance there of La Provostaye who was at the time a surveillant and who became his lifelong friend and his associate in his researches. After completing his course, he accepted a professorship in 1839 at Caen, and in 1841 returned to Paris where he received similar appointments, first at the Lycée St-Louis and later at the Lycée Condorcet, where he succeeded La Provostaye who was forced to retire on account of ill-health. His growing reputation won for him in 1853 the chair of physics at the Sorbonne which he held for thirty-two years. His lectures were characterized by great clearness and precision and many of his experimental illustrations were devised or improved by him.
Between 1858 and 1861 he made many observations in connexion with terrestrial magnetism. His most important contributions to physics, however, were his researches on radiant heat made in conjunction with La Provostaye. With rare experimental skill the two physicists proved that radiant heat, like light,, is a disturbance set up in the ether and propagated in all directions by transverse waves. They showed in a series of "Mémoires" published in the "Annals de Chimie et de Physique" that it manifests the characteristic phenomena of reflection, refraction, and polarization, as well as of emission and absorption. They also made a study of the latent heat of fusion of ice, and a careful investigation of the range of applicability of the formula of Dulong and Petit representing the law of cooling. Of no less importance, however, was Desain's work in connexion with the establishment and development of laboratory instruction in physics. When the "Ecole pratique des hautes études" was founded in 1869 he was commissioned to organize the physical laboratory. He made it a model of its kind both in completeness and in convenience of detail. During the siege of Paris in 1870, he succeeded after many difficulties in establishing electrical communication with d'Alméida who was outside the lines. The exposure he underwent brought on a rheumatism which greatly weakened his constitution. Desains published a "Traiteé de Physique" (Paris, 1855) and numerous articles, chiefly with La Provostaye. Among them are: "Recherches sur la chaleur latente de fusion de la glace" (Ann. de chim. et de phys. , VIII, 5); "Notes et mémoires sur les lois du rayonnement de la chaleur" (ibid., XII, 129, XVI, 337, XXII, 358); "Mémoire sur la polarisation de la chaleur" (ibid., XXVII, 109, 232, XXVIII, 252, XXX, 159); "Mémoire sur les anneaux colorés" (ibid., XXX, 276); "Mémoires sur la détermination du pouvoir absorbant des corps pour la chaleur rayonnante" (XXX, 431); etc.
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.
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