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Bauer, Edmond

Bauer, Edmond

(b. Paris, France, 26 October 1880; d. Paris, 18 October 1963)

physics, physical chemistry.

The son of a businessman, Bauer was educated at the lycées Condorcet and Janson de Sailly, and graduated from the University of Paris. At Paris he was first assistant to Jean Perrin; he worked for some time under Rubens and Nernst; and he engaged in theoretical and experimental research on luminescence and blackbody radiation under Langevin, writing his thesis on the latter work (1912). Bauer was married in 1911 and had four children. Severely wounded at Charleroi in 1914, he was a prisoner of war in Germany for three years. Once Alsace had been returned to France in 1919, he was appointed to the University of Strasbourg under Pierre Weiss; in 1928 Langevin asked him to be sous-directeur of his laboratory at the Collège de France. During World War II, Bauer did not accept an invitation to go to the United States, and stayed in Vichy France; after the Gestapo arrested his daughter, who was fighting in the Resistance with her brothers, he had to seek refuge in Switzerland. His daughter was sent to Ravensbrück, but survived the war. His eldest son also was captured, and died in Neuengamme. Bauer’s last position was as professor of physical chemistry at the University of Paris.

Bauer’s main experimental and theoretical research dealt with radiation emitted by flames and metallic vapors, which he showed to be thermal; precise determination of the Stefan constant; diffusion of light by high-altitude atmosphere at the Mont Blanc observatory, involving Avogadro’s number, the coming of night, and second twilight; the ferromagnetic equation of state; group theory and quantum mechanics; hydrogen bonding and the structure of water and ice, determined from vibration spectra; differential infrared detection of impurities in gas; dielectric dispersion and phase transformation, involving relaxation time and lifetime of hydrogen bonds; and chemical kinetics.

Throughout his life Bauer was keenly interested in the origin and development of the fundamental notions of physics. He contributed to treatises on the history of science and conducted much original research in that field.

Bauer’s activity as a professor and an initiator of research stimulated a generation of French physicists. A man of great culture and inexhaustible generosity, he made himself always available to any scientist asking for help or direction in research. Thus, the sum of his work was more than what has been published under his name.


1. Original Works. Bauer’s books on physics include La théorie de Bohr (Paris, 1922); Les bases expérimentales immédiates de la théorie de quanta (Paris, 1933), written with Pierre V. Auger, Louis de Broglie, and M. Courtines; Introduction à la théorie des groupes et à ses applications à la physique quantique (Paris, 1933), trans. by Paul E. H. Meijer as Group Theory, the Application to Quantum Mechanics (Amsterdam, 1962, 1965), and by N. D. Ershovoï as Vvedenie v teoriu grup i ee prilozhenie k kvantovoï fizike (Kiev, 1937), La théorie de l’observation en mécanique quantique (Paris, 1939), written with Fritz London (analysis, more concise than von Neumann’s, of the modification of information on a system by the act of observation; the difference in statistical meaning between representation of information by a wave function and by a density matrix is clearly outlined); and Champs de vecteurs et de tenseurs (Paris, 1955).

He also wrote more than fifty original papers on his experimental and theoretical research in physics and physical chemistry. They include “Les coefficients d’aimantation des gaz paramagnétiques et la theorie du magnétisme.” in Journal de physique, 6th ser., 1 (1920), 97–128; written with Auguste Piccard; “Les propriétés thermoélastiques des métaux ferromagnétiques et le champ moléculaire,” ibid., 10 (1929), 345–359; “Sur la déformation des molécules en phase condensée et la liaison hydrogène,” ibid., 7th ser., 9 (1938), 319–330, written with M. Magat: “Sur la théorie des diélectriques polaires,” in Cahiers de physique, no. 20 (1944), 1–20; no. 21 (1944), 21–37; no. 27 (1945), 33–38; and “A Theory of Ultrasonic Adsorption in Unassociated Liquids,” in Proceedings of the Physical Society, 52 (1949), 141–154.

Bauer’s contributions to the history of science include L’électromagnétisme, hier et aujourd’hui (Paris, 1929); “L’oeuvre scientifique de Coulomb,” in Bulletin de la Société française des radioélectriciens, 5th ser., 7 (1937), 1–18; and the chapters on electricity and magnetism in R. Taton, ed., Histoire générale des sciences: II, La science moderne (1958), 520–539; III, pt. 1, Le XIXe siècle (1961), 201–260; and III, pt. 2, Le XXe siècle (1964), 239–253. He also wrote all the chapters on the history of science in the seven vols. of Malet and Isaac’s Cours d’histoire, the official textbook in all French secondary schools since 1928.

II. Secondary Literature. Information on Bauer’s life and work is in the obituary by K. K. Darrow in Physics To-day, 17 (June 1964), 86–87; and in M. Letort, G. Champetier, J. Wyart et al., “Hommage à Edmond Bauer,” in Journal de chimie physique, 61 (1964), 955–984.

Daniel Massignon

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