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Eleuthere Elie Nicolas Mascart

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Eleuthere Elie Nicolas Mascart (c1837-1908)

1909 Obituary [1]

ELEUTHERE ELIE NICOLAS MASCART, who died on August 25, 1908, at the age of 71, was a native of Quarouble, in the North of France.

He was educated at Valenciennes and at the Ecole Normale Superieure, Lille, where he finally graduated in 1864. He held various professorships in physics both there and at Metz and Versailles, and acted as deputy for the celebrated Regnault at the College de France. On Regnault's death, in 1872, he succeeded to his chair. He early showed a capacity for dealing methodically with the details of meteorology, and in 1878 was appointed director of the Central Bureau of Meteorology in Paris. He held this position until 1907, and during his term of office he succeeded in perfecting the organisation of the department and establishing the systematic publication of weather charts and forecasts.

His early researches were mainly in optics, and later his attention was devoted to electricity, magnetism, and the measurement of electrical quantities. He was awarded the Prix Bordin for his work on spectrum analysis and the determination of wave-lengths. He also investigated in great detail the subjects of dispersion and interference, and examined the question whether it was possible by optical phenomena to determine the absolute motion of a body without any reference to that of the earth. His conclusion was that optical phenomena indicate only the motion relative to the earth, and for this result he was in 1874 awarded a Grand Prix.

In 1876 he published an excellent treatise on static electricity embodying Green's theory of potential and Lord Kelvin's electrometric work. About this time he also studied certain electrical effects in meteorology.

In 1877 he published articles on the theory of electrodynamic machines, and correctly stated the law of efficiency of motors, which up till then had not been generally understood. He carried out experimental work in connection with M. Angot, and obtained very accurate results in the measurement of electrochemical and other units.

In 1884 he was elected to the Academie des Sciences, and held various positions in that distinguished body, becoming President in 1904. He was also President of the Societe Francaise de Physique and of the Societe Internationale des Electriciens. He was created Grand Officer of the Legion of Honour for services to his Government during the Franco-German War in connection with the making of explosives at Bayonne.

In 1885 he was made an Honorary Member of the Physical Society of London; in 1892, Foreign Member of the Royal Society; and in 1901, Honorary Member of this Institution. His health broke down soon after he resigned his post as Director of Meteorology. He only lived a year after his retirement.

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