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Jean Baptiste Perrin

Born 30 September 1870(1870-09-30)
Lille, France
Died 17 April 1942 (aged 71)
New York City, USA
Nationality France
Fields Physics
Institutions École Normale Supérieure
University of Paris
Alma mater École Normale Supérieure
Known for Nature of cathode rays
Brownian motion
Notable awards Nobel Prize in Physics (1926)

Jean Baptiste Perrin (30 September 1870 – 17 April 1942) was a French physicist and Nobel laureate.




Early years

Born in Lille, France, Perrin attended the École Normale Supérieure, the elite grande école in Paris. He became an assistant at the school during the period of 1894-97 when he began the study of cathode rays and X-rays. He was awarded the degree of docteur ès sciences (PhD) in 1897. In the same year he was appointed as a lecturer in physical chemistry at the Sorbonne, Paris. He became a professor at the University in 1910, holding this post until the German occupation of France during World War II.


In 1895, Jean Perrin showed that cathode rays were made of corpuscles with negative electric charge. He computed Avogadro's number through several methods. He explained solar energy by the thermonuclear reactions of hydrogen.

After Albert Einstein published (1905) his theoretical explanation of Brownian motion in terms of atoms, Perrin did the experimental work to test and verify Einstein's predictions, thereby settling the century-long dispute about John Dalton's atomic theory.

Jean Perrin received the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1926 for this and other work on the discontinuous structure of matter, which put a definite end to the long struggle regarding the question of the physical reality of molecules.

Perrin was the author of a number of books and dissertations. Most notable of his publications were: "Rayons cathodiques et rayons X" ; "Les Principes"; "Electrisation de contact"; "Réalité moléculaire"; "Matière et Lumière"; "Lumière et Reaction chimique".

Perrin was also the recipient of numerous prestigious awards including the Joule Prize of the Royal Society in 1896 and the La Caze Prize of the Paris Academy of Sciences. He was twice appointed a member of the Solvay Committee at Brussels in 1911 and in 1921. He also held memberships with the Royal Society of London and with the Academies of Sciences of Belgium, Sweden, Turin, Prague, Romania and China. He became a Commander of the Legion of Honour in 1926 and was made Commander of the Order of Léopold (Belgium).

In 1927, he jointly founded the Institut de Biologie Physico-Chimique and in 1937 the Palais de la Découverte, a science museum in Paris.

One of his students was Pierre Victor Auger. Perrin was the father of Francis Perrin, also a physicist.

Personal life

Perrin was an officer in the engineer corps during World War I. When the Germans invaded France in 1940, he escaped to the U.S.A. where he died in New York City. After the War, in 1948, his remains were transported back to France by the battleship Jeanne d'Arc and buried in the Panthéon.


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Coherent assumptions on what is still invisible may increase our understanding of the visible.

Jean Baptiste Perrin (30 September 187017 April 1942) was a French physicist and Nobel laureate.


  • Lastly, and doubtless always, but particularly at the end of the last century, certain scholars considered that since the appearances on our scale were finally the only important ones for us, there was no point in seeking what might exist in an inaccessible domain. I find it very difficult to understand this point of view since what is inaccessible today may become accessible tomorrow (as has happened by the invention of the microscope), and also because coherent assumptions on what is still invisible may increase our understanding of the visible.

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