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Coriolis, Gustave (1792-1843) French Mathematician, Engineer, Scientist Gustave Coriolis, also known as Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis, was born on May 21, 1792, son of Jean-Baptiste-Elzéar Coriolis and Marie-Sophie de Maillet. He is best known for his work on the Coriolis force caused by the Earth's rotation, but also was the first person to define work as the product of force times distance, and he defined kinetic energy as it is used in the current scientific meaning. He died on September 19, 1843, at the age of 51, in Paris, while he was a professor at the École Centrale Paris.
Gustave's father was a military officer who served with Louis XVI in 1790. This caused difficulties for the family during the French Revolution when the king was caught while attempting to flee Paris and was returned to the capital, where he was guillotined in January 1793. Gustave's family fled to Nancy, where his father became an industrialist, while the son attended schools. In 1808 he entered the École Polytechnique and on graduating entered the École des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris. For the next few years Coriolis worked with the engineering corps in the Meurthe-et-Moselle district in the Vosges Mountains, and after his father died he worked long hours to raise money to support his family, even though his health was failing.
Coriolis became a tutor at the École Polytechnique in 1816, where he experimented on fricton and hydraulics, publishing a textbook in 1829, Calcul de l'effet des machines (Calculation of the effect of machines), describing the science of mechanics in a way that industry could apply. The same year Corio-lis took the position of professor of mechanics at the École Centrale des Arts et Manufactures in Paris, and in 1832 he took on a position at the École des Ponts and Chaussées and was elected to the Academie des Sciences. Coriolis spent much of his time over the next years working on the principles of kinetic energy as applied to rotating systems and eventually published his famous paper in 1835 "Sur les équations du mouvement relatif des systèmes de corps" (on the equations of relative motion of a system of bodies), relating to the transfer of energy in rotating systems such as gears and waterwheels. In 1838 Coriolis ended his teaching career and became director of studies, but in spring 1843 his poor health took a dramatic turn for the worse, and he died in early fall of that year.
Gustave Coriolis did not work directly with the forces in the atmospheric system, yet by the end of the 19th century his work was being applied to ideas about the ceneral circulation of the atmosphere and relationships between atmospheric pressure and winds. He is recognized for this contribution since he showed that the laws of motion could be applied to a rotating frame of reference if an extra force, now called the Coriolis acceleration, is added to the equations of motion. See also atmosphere; Coriolis effect.
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