Skip to main content

Gambey, Henri-Prudence

Gambey, Henri-Prudence

(b. Troyes, France, 8 October 1787; d. Paris, France, 28 January 1847)

precision instrumentation.

Gambey was a workman and then supervisor at the École des Arts et Métiers in Compiègne. He then worked for a time in Châns-sur-Marne; on the death of his father he returned to Paris, where he started a small shop in St. Denis. There he manufactured precision instruments for physicists and astronomers.

The high quality of Gambey’s instruments soon brought him to the attention of French scientific circles. In 1819 he was asked by the director of the Paris Exhibition to display some of his work there (perhaps as an attempt to regain the international prestige of French instrumentation, lost to Ramsden in England and Fraunhofer and Georg von Reichenbach in Germany). Gambey had only two months in which to prepare his work for the exposition; nevertheless, his instruments were awarded the gold medal and the Royal Society of London characterized them as being unsurpassed in Europe for elegance and precision.

Shortly thereafter Gambey built a portable the odolite for the Bureau des Longitudes. He also made the first cathetometer, for Dulong and Petit; a heliostat for Fresnel; and a vastly improved compass for Coulomb. Most important, however, he constructed a number of major instruments for the Paris observatory, of which the mural circle that he finished just before he died is his masterpiece. (A gigantic new equatorial was built from his plans after his death.)

Gambey won further gold medals at the Paris exhibitions of 1824 and 1829. He was a member of the Bureau des Longitudes and was elected to the Académie des Sciences in 1837 to replace Mollart.

At one time Gambey planned to emigrate to America, but was persuaded to stay in France by François Arago. Arago later said that whenever French scientists needed new and delicate instruments they turned to Gambey, who invariably solved the problem to their satisfaction.

Asit K. Biswas

Margaret R. Biswas

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Gambey, Henri-Prudence." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . 26 Mar. 2019 <>.

"Gambey, Henri-Prudence." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . (March 26, 2019).

"Gambey, Henri-Prudence." Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. . Retrieved March 26, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.