Les recherches d'Edmond Becquerel sur la nature de la lumière entre 1839 et 1843, histoire d'une interaction réussie entre science et photographie

Abstract : The invention of photography came about as a progress in the domain of technology, but the scientific community was very quickly interested in it. First used in his initial function, producing pictures, its procedures are little by little adapted to the needs of research. The scientist Edmond Becquerel (1820-1891) was eighteen years old in 1839 when the principles of photography were published in France. He took immediately interest in this development. As photographer, he produced pictures of Paris, but as physician he uses the chemical principle of this new technology for his research in physics. In this thesis we analyse this transfer of methods from the technical community to the scientific community, and in particular the construction by Edmond Becquerel of a device known as the electrochemical actinometer, using the chemical principles of photography, but without producing pictures, for the analysis of the solar spectrum. With this instrument, Edmond Becquerel obtains results that he claims prove that the rays “beyond purple” are light. Our exploration of the origins of this instrument is based, first, on the analysis of the description, in different communications to the French “Académie des Sciences”, of three devices, built by Edmond Becquerel, which lead him to the invention of the electrochemical actinometer. Second, we use information we collected during the replications we did of these different instruments. We observe how this instrument was invented, constructed, and transformed by Edmond Becquerel between 1839 and 1843. We also analyse which parameters influenced this evolution. We particularly explore the influence of a controversy caused by this invention, between Edmond Becquerel and the famous French physicist Jean-Baptiste Biot. This controversy seems to be essentially based on experimental dissension. But Biot is known for his unfailing defence of the corpuscular theory of light. This point drives us to analyze if any theoretical influences concerning light motivated Becquerel’s work, and if so, which one.
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Jérôme Fatet. Les recherches d'Edmond Becquerel sur la nature de la lumière entre 1839 et 1843, histoire d'une interaction réussie entre science et photographie . Histoire, Philosophie et Sociologie des sciences. Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1, 2005. Français. ⟨NNT : 2005LYO10237⟩. ⟨tel-01164450⟩

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