Gabriel Lippmann bigraphy, stories - French physicist

Gabriel Lippmann : biography

16 August 1845 - 13 July 1921

Jonas Ferdinand Gabriel LippmannBirth certificate, cf. R. Grégorius (1984): Gabriel Lippmann. Notice biographique. In: Inauguration d'une plaque à la mémoire de Gabriel Lippmann par le Centre culturel et d'éducation populaire de Bonnevoie et la Section des sciences de l'Institut grand-ducal. Bonnevoie, le 13 avril 1984: 8-20. (16 August 1845 – 13 July 1921) was a Franco-Luxembourgish physicist and inventor, and Nobel laureate in physics for his method of reproducing colours photographically based on the phenomenon of interference.


  • J.P. Pier & J.A. Massard (eds) (1997): Luxembourg, Section des sciences naturelles, physiques et mathématiques de l’Institut grand-ducal de Luxembourg en collaboration avec le Séminaire de mathématique et le Séminaire d’histoire des sciences et de la médecine du centre universitaire de Luxembourg, 139 p.
  • Lebon, Ernest, "Savants du jour : biographie, bibliographie analytique des écrits", comprenant Portrait de Gabriel Lippmann. - 1911. p. 70, Gauthier-Villars (Paris), 1909-1913.

Academic affiliations

Lippmann was a member of the Academy of Sciences from 8 February 1886 until his death, serving as its President in 1912. In addition, he was a Foreign Member of the Royal Society of London, a member of the Bureau des Longitudes, and a member of the Grand Ducal Institute. He became a member of the Société française de photographie in 1892 and its president from 1896 to 1899., published in DU, die Zeitschrift der Kultur, no 708 : Fotografie, der lange Weg zur Farbe, Juillet-août 2000. Musée de l'Élysée. Retrieved 6 December 2010. Lippmann was one of the founders of the Institut d'optique théorique et appliquée in France.


Lippmann made several important contributions to various branches of physics over the years.

The capillary electrometer

One of Lippmann's early discoveries was the relationship between electrical and capillary phenomena which allowed him to develop a sensitive capillary electrometer, subsequently known as the Lippmann electrometer which was used in the first ECG machine. In a paper delivered to the Philosophical Society of Glasgow on 17 January 1883, John G. M'Kendrick described the apparatus as follows:

Lippmann's electrometer consists of a tube of ordinary glass, 1 metre long and 7 millimetres in diameter, open at both ends, and kept in the vertical position by a stout support. The lower end is drawn into a capillary point, until the diameter of the capillary is .005 of a millimetre. The tube is filled with mercury, and the capillary point is immersed in dilute sulphuric acid (1 to 6 of water in volume), and in the bottom of the vessel containing the acid there is a little more mercury. A platinum wire is put into connection with the mercury in each tube, and, finally, arrangements are made by which the capillary point can be seen with a microscope magnifying 250 diameters. Such an instrument is very sensitive; and Lippmann states that it is possible to determine a difference of potential so small as that of one 10,080th of a Daniell. It is thus a very delicate means of observing and (as it can be graduated by a compensation-method) of measuring minute electromotive forces.John G. M'Kendrick, "Note on a Simple Form of Lippmann's Capillary Electrometer useful to Physiologists".See also a similar description in German at ", Meyers Konversationslexikon, Verlag des Bibliographischen Instituts, Leipzig und Wien, 1885-1892. Retrieved 5 December 2010.

Lippmann's PhD thesis, presented to the Sorbonne on 24 July 1875, was on electrocapillarity., Centre de recherche public Gabriel Lippmann. Retrieved 4 December 2010.

Colour photography

Above all, Lippmann is remembered as the inventor of a method for reproducing colours by photography, based on the interference phenomenon, which earned him the Nobel Prize in Physics for 1908.

In 1886, Lippmann's interest turned to a method of fixing the colours of the solar spectrum on a photographic plate. On 2 February 1891, he announced to the Academy of Sciences: "I have succeeded in obtaining the image of the spectrum with its colours on a photographic plate whereby the image remains fixed and can remain in daylight without deterioration." By April 1892, he was able to report that he had succeeded in producing colour images of a stained glass window, a group of flags, a bowl of oranges topped by a red poppy and a multicoloured parrot. He presented his theory of colour photography using the interference method in two papers to the Academy, one in 1894, the other in 1906.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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