Soleil, Jean-Baptiste-François

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(b. Paris, France. 1798: d. Paris, 17 November (1878)

optical instruments.

Soleil learned his craft while working under the engineers Hareing and Palmer. From 1823 to 1827 he was intimately associated with the work of Fresnel. Soleil directed the construction of the annular lenses and the mechanism to rotate themhai Fresnel had designed for use in lighthouses. soleil’s first lens was made under the direction of Fresnel and was based on his theory. In 1841 it was presented to the Académie des Sciences by his son,. Henri. Soleil constructed most of the apparatus used by Fresnel in his optical research based on the experimental demonstration of the wave theory by Thomas Young. This work brought Soleil into contact with those scientists who, following Fresnel,developed the new optics:François Arago, Jacques Babinet, Charles Delezenne, Fredrik Rudberg. and Johann Nörrenberg. A notable piece of apparatus constructed by Soleil—the diffraction bench—was intended for use in public demonstrations of interference and diffracttion phenomena with either sunlight or lamplight.

Soleil produced and sold a wide variety of optical instruments at 35 rue de I’déon. His inventions included an apparatus for measuring the interaxial angle in biaxial crystals and an improved model of Biot’s saccharimeter. In 1849 he retired from business and was succeeded by his son-in-law and former apprentice Jules Duboscq. In November 1850 Soleil was named chevalier of the Légion d’Honneur.

Soleil received a number of exhibition awards, including a gold medal in 1849; and the physical optics section of the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London was devoted solely to the products and inventions of Duboscq and Soleil. This exhibition won the highest award—a council medal.


I. Original Works. Soleil’s works include “Appareils pour la production des anneaux colorés à centre noir ou blanc,” in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séances de l’Académie des sciences18 (1844), 417–419; “Note sur la structure et la propriété rotatoire du quartz cristallisé,” ibid., 20 (1845), 435–438; “Note surmoyen de faciliter les expériences de polarisation rotatoire,” ibid., 1805– 1807; “Note sur perfectionnement apporté au pointage du saccharimètre.” ibid, 24 (1847), 973–975; “Notice sur I’horloge polaire de M. Wheatstone, construite et perfectionnée par M. Soleil,” ibid., 28 (I849), 511–5l3; and “Note sur un nouveau caractère distinctif entre les cristaux agrave un axe, positifs et négtifs,” ibid., 30 (1850). 361–362. Brief notices of apparatus shown to the Academy are also printed in Comptes rendus hebdomadaires des séeances de I’Académie des sciences.

II. Secondary Literature. See Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations 1851. Reports by the Juries on the Subjects in the Thirty Classes Into Which the Exhibition Was Divided (London, 1852), 272: and G. Vapereau, Dictionnaire universel des contemporains (Paris. 1880).

G. L’E. Turner