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  • 8/22/2004

Charles Augustin de Coulomb

(14 June 1736-23 Aug 1806)

Charles Augustin Coulomb was a French physicist.
Born in Angoulême, France. He chose the profession of military engineer, spent three years, to the decided injury of his health, at Fort Bourbon, Martinique, and was employed on his return at La Rochelle, the Isle of Aix and Cherbourg.
In 1781 he was stationed permanently at Paris, but on the outbreak of the Revolution in 1789 he resigned his appointment as intendant des eaux et fontaines, and retired to a small estate which he possessed at Blois. He was recalled to Paris for a time in order to take part in the new determination of weights and measures, which had been decreed by the Revolutionary government. Of the National Institute he was one of the first members; and he was appointed inspector of public instruction in 1802. But his health was already very feeble, and four years later he died at Paris. Coulomb is distinguished in the history of mechanics and of electricity and magnetism. In 1779 he published an important investigation of the laws of friction (Théorie des machines simples, en ayant égard au frottement de leurs parties et à la roideur des cordages), which was followed twenty years later by a memoir on viscosity.In 1785 appeared his Recherches théoriques et expérimentales sur la force de torsion et sur l'élasticité des fils de metal.This memoir contained a description of different forms of his torsion balance, an instrument used by him with great success for the experimental investigation of the distribution of charge on surfaces and of the laws of electrical and magnetic force, of the mathematical theory of which he may also be regarded as the founder.
The unit of charge, the coulomb, is named after him.

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