Adrien Auzout was a French astronomer and physicist born in Rouen on 28 January 1622. He was the eldest of seven children and his father worked as an administrator in the Rouen law courts. He was not a wealthy man but he managed to send his eldest son to be educated at the Jesuit college in Rouen. It is possible that Auzout went to the school at the same time as the mathematician Blaise Pascal and that later on the two men worked together on the nature of the ‘vacuum.’
In 1647 Auzout left Rouen and went to live in Paris where he joined the academic circle of Marin Mersenne; it was here that he improved his knowledge of physics and mathematics supplementing his income by working at various jobs including giving astrology readings to Parisian aristocrats!
Around 1660 he gave up mathematics to dedicate himself to observational astronomy. And after observing comets from 1664 to 1665 he put forward the idea that they followed regular elliptical orbits and were therefore permanent members of the solar system.. He produced a pamphlet on the orbit of the first of two comets of 1665, predicting an orbit for the comet based on several observations he had made. His predictions were disputed by the Polish astronomer Johannes Hevelius but The Royal Society in London decided that Auzout was correct.
The importance of Auzout's work on comets is his belief that they followed regular orbits and were thus permanent members of the solar system. He also hoped that the distance to the comet and its magnitude could be calculated, and so a proof given that the Earth is in motion. He also worked with Jean Picard to improve telescopes and contributed to the final development of the micrometer eyepieces. By 1666 Auzout and Picard were observing with fully developed micrometers.
In 1666 Auzout was part of a group of scientists making astronomical observations from Jean-Baptiste Colbert's Paris home. Colbert was the French Minister of Finance and had chosen the members who first met in the King's Library on 22 December 1666; this cold be considered the founding meeting of the Académie Royale des Sciences. Auzout was an enthusiastic founding member and soon made a contribution. The records of the Academy contain state:
On the eleventh day of January 1667 M Auzout presented to the assembly a memoir which was read to the company on the observations that should be made at Madagascar.
This is the first known proposal for an astronomical scientific expedition. However he was frustrated at the slow pace of things at the Academy and this is documented in his correspondence to the German theologian Henry Oldenburg. In 1668 he resigned from the Académie des Sciences and went to spend the rest of his life in Rome. It is not completely know why he left but it seems he loved Italian architecture and knew Christophere Wren. He died in Rome on 23 May 1691.
Adrien Auzout était un astronome et physicien français né à Rouen le 28 janvier 1622. Il est célèbre pour ses observations de comètes, son travail pour perfectionner les lunettes astronomiques et sa contribution au developpement du micromètre moderne.
En 1647 Auzout a quitté Rouen pour s’installer à Paris où il a rejoint le cercle savant de Marin Mersenne. Là il a profondi ses connaissances de la physique et des mathématiques. Vers 1660, il a abandonné les mathématiques pour se consacrer à l’astronomie d’observation. À la suite d’observations de comètes effectuées en 1664 et 1665, Auzout plaide en faveur de leur orbite elliptique ou parabolique, s’opposant à son rival, l’astronome polonais, Johannes Hevelius. La Royal Society de Londres est intervenu et se déclare son accord avec Auzout.
Le travail d’Auzout était important car il croyait que les comètes suivait des orbites régulières et qu’ils étaient des éléments permanents du système solaire. Il joue un rôle décisif dans la réalisation de nouveaux instruments adaptés à la lunette astronomique en donnant au micromètre sa forme définitive et en substituant des appareils de visée optique aux pinnules. Il est mort le 23 mai 1691 à Rome.