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Charles Fourier

Charles Fourier

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Charles Fourier was born in Besancon, France, on 7th April, 1773. The son of a cloth merchant, he was educated at the local Jesuit college. After serving the the French Army he worked as a clerk in Lyon.

In 1808 he published his first book, The Social Destiny of Man. In the book Fourier criticized the immorality of the business world, arguing that "truth and commerce are as incompatible as Jesus and Satan." In the book Fourier advocated a new socialist system of cooperation. He suggested that 'phalanxes' should be established. These would be scientifically planned to offer a maximum of both cooperation and self-fulfillment to their members. Fourier suggested that these communes should contain about 1,600 people and should attempt to be compatible with each member's "natural talents, passions, and inclinations".

The ideas in the book influenced writers such as Alexander Hearken, Peter Larva, Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, Prince Kropotkin, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau. Others like Karl Marx and Frederick Engels accused Fourier of being "utopian" and attempted to develop a more scientific theory of socialism.

One of Fourier's supporters, Victor Considerant, established a newspaper in order to promote the cause. Others attempted to establish their own phalanstery. This included one at Rambouillet in France that was under-capitalized and eventually went bankrupt (1834-36). Another, more successful attempt, was made by George Ripley at Brook Farm in Massachusetts (1841-46).

Although no long-term phalanxes were established, Fourier's ideas influenced a generation of socialists, anarchists, feminists, pacifists, internationalists and others questioning the morality of the capitalist system. Even Karl Marx and Frederick Engels used Fourier's ideas to develop their theory of alienation.

Fourier also published The New World of Communal Activity (1829) and The False Division of Labour (1835). However, his attempts to find a rich benefactor to fund a phalanstery ended in failure.

Charles Fourier died in Paris on 10th October, 1837.

History of Utopian Founder Charles Fourier Part 2

His attitude toward children was not so egalitarian. In his ideal society, "children are always up and about at 3 o'clock in the morning, cleaning the stables, attending to the animals, working in the slaughterhouses. The Little Hordes have as one of their duties the incidental repairing of the highways. " The Little Hordes were also in charge of snake control.

Fourier expounded his ideas in other books, including an eight-volume series published between 1829 and 1836, and he soon had an enthusiastic following, first in France, then in the U.S., where Fourierism (also called Associationism) became a craze with a peak membership estimated at 200,000 people.

Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau were against Fourierism because they felt it suppressed individualism. But other intellectuals fell hard for the idea. Among them was Albert Brisbane, "the Great Apostle," a tall, bearded, big-browed man with piercing eyes, who had met Fourier in Europe in 1828 and who came back to the U.S. in 1840 to write The Social Destiny of Man, which outlined Fourier's ideas. Impressed with Brisbane, Horace Greeley gave him space in his New York Tribune for articles on Fourierism.

Fourieristic societies formed everywhere, and in 1843 a convention was held in which a drive to organize phalanxes was made.

Only three of the 40 phalanxes in the U.S. lasted more than two years, and most did not follow Fourier's ideas very closely.

The most famous phalanx was Brook Farm in Massachusetts, which converted from transcendentalism to Fourierism in 1844. However, its members, like those of most other phalanxes, refused to adopt Fourier's concept of "passionate attraction" (free love) and remained monogamous.

The North American Phalanx in Red Bank, N.J., was one of the most successful experiments, although, in spite of its initial funding of $100,000, it became so poor that meals often consisted of only buckwheat cakes and water. It lasted 13 years.

The Clermont Phalanx in Ohio was housed in a steamboat like building, with staterooms on either side of a long hall. And there were the Sylvania Phalanx, the Trumbull Phalanx, the Integral Phalanx, and Le Reunion in Texas, begun by a Frenchman, Victor Considerant.

All failed--either because the members couldn't get along, or because of poor management, or, as one member said, "for love of money and want of love for association."


(1808) 1857 The Social Destiny of Man: Or, Theory of the Four Movements. New York: Dewitt. ⇒ First published as Théorie des quatre mouvements et des destinées géneratés: Prospectus et annonce de la découverte.

1822 Traité de I’association domestique agricole. 2 vols. Paris: Bossange.

1829-1830 Le nouveau monde industriel et sociétaire: Ou invention du procédé d’industrie attrayante et naturelle distribuée en series passionnées. Paris: Bossange.

1835-1836 La fausse Industrie morcelée, répugnante, mensongére, et l’antidote: L’industrie naturelle, combinée, attrayante, véridique donnant quadruple produit. 2 vols. Paris: Bossange.

1841-1845 Oeuvres complétes de Ch. Fourier. 6 vols. Paris: Librairie Sociétaire.

1851-1858 Publication des manuscrits de Charles Fourier. 4 vols. Paris: Librairie Phalanstérienne.

Charles Fourier on the Revolution

After the philosophers had demonstrated their incapacity in their experimental venture, in the French Revolution, everyone agreed in regarding their science as an aberration of the human mind their floods of political and moral enlightenment seemed to be nothing more than floods of illusions. Well! what else can be found in the writings of these savants who, after having perfected their theories for twenty-five centuries, after having accumulated all the wisdom of the ancients and moderns, begin by engendering calamities as numerous as the benefits which they promised, and help push civilized society back toward the state of barbarism? Such was the consequence of the first five years during which the philosophical theories were inflicted on France.

After the catastrophe of 1793, illusions were dissipated, the political and moral sciences were irretrievably blighted and discredited. From that point on people should have understood that there was no happiness to be found in acquired learning, that social welfare had to be sought in some new science, and that new paths had to be opened to political genius. It was evident that neither the philosophers nor their rivals possessed a remedy for the social distresses, and that their dogmas only served to perpetuate the most disgraceful calamities, among others poverty. . . .

Philosophy was right to vaunt liberty it is the foremost desire of all societies' creatures. But philosophy forgot that in civilized societies liberty is illusory if the common people lack wealth. When the wage-earning classes are poor, their independence is as fragile as a house without foundations. The free man who lacks wealth immediately sinks back under the yoke of the rich. The newly freed slave takes fright at the need of providing for his own subsistence and hastens to sell himself back into slavery in order to escape this new anxiety that hangs over him like Damocles' sword. In thoughtlessly giving him liberty without wealth, you merely replace his physical torment with a mental torment. He finds life burdensome in his new state. . . . Thus when you give liberty to the people, it must be bolstered by two supports which are the guarantee of comfort and industrial attraction. . . .

Equality of rights is another chimera, praiseworthy when considered in the abstract and ridiculous from the standpoint of the means employed to introduce it in civilization. The first right of men is the right to work and the right to a minimum [wage]. This is precisely what has gone unrecognized in all the constitutions. Their primary concern is with favored individuals who are not in need of work. They begin with pompous lists of the elect from privileged families to whom the law guarantees an income of fifty or one hundred thousand francs for the simple task of governing the people or sitting in an upholstered seat and voting with the majority in a senate. If the first page of the constitution serves to provide administrators with guarantees of affluence and idleness, it would be well for the second page to pay some attention to the lot of the lower classes, to the proportional minimum and the right to work, which are omitted in all constitutions, and to the right to pleasure, which is guaranteed only by the mechanism of the industrial series. . . .

Let's turn to fraternity. Our discussion here will be amusing, at once loathsome and learned. It is amusing in view of the imbecility of the theories which have purported to establish fraternity. It is loathsome when one recalls the horrors that the ideal of fraternity has masked. But it is a problem which deserves particular attention from science for societies will attain their goal, and man his dignity, only when universal fraternity has become an established fact. By universal fraternity we mean a degree of general intimacy which can only be realized if four conditions are satisfied:

Comfort for the people and the assurance of a splendid minimum

The education and instruction of the lower classes

General truthfulness in work relations

The rendering of reciprocal services by unequal classes.

Once these four conditions are met, the rich Mondor will have truly fraternal relations with Irus who, despite his poverty, will have no need of a protector and no motive to deceive anyone, and whose fine education will enable him to associate with princes. . . . As for the present, how could there be any fraternity between sybarites steeped in refinements and our coarse, hungry peasants who are covered with rags and often with vermin and who carry contagious diseases like typhus, mange, replica and other such fruits of civilized poverty? What sort of fraternity could ever be established between such heterogeneous classes of men?

Fourierist Utopianism

One of the oddest phenomena ever to sweep America was Fourierist Utopianism. In the wake of social shocks including the large-scale movement of rural populations to industrial cities and the financial Panic of 1837, reformers across the youthful nation were smitten by the peculiar theories of the French thinker François Marie Charles Fourier (1772&ndash1837) (pictured).

In 1821, Fourier had published his influential book, A Treatise on Domestic and Agricultural Association. In it, he advocated for communities organized into &ldquophalanxes&rdquo freed from private ownership in order to provide economic comfort, social justice, and individual fulfillment while resolving the differences among capital, management, and labor. Phalanx was the English term for a Fourierist community, transliterated from the French phalanstère, a coinage by Fourier that combined the French words phalange (phalanx, a basic ancient Greek military formation) and monastère (monastery).

Fourier&rsquos theory of &ldquoattractive labor&rdquo held that all work, whether craftwork, industrial labor, or farm work, could be achieved free of the evils of capital and private property when individuals come together, each following his or her natural proclivities. None of this was based on experiment, nor on any concrete life experience of Fourier&rsquos it simply sprang from his brain&mdashas did his conviction that phalanx life should include free love, which nonetheless led him to an early defense of woman&rsquos rights. (Nineteenth-century practice was to use the singular, woman's later practice was to use the plural, women's.) Fourier also proposed a complex mystical cosmology, jarringly predicting that when the perfect society was achieved the seas would (literally) lose their salt and turn to lemonade!

Even so, Fourier&rsquos thinking struck a surprising chord among social radicals. According to historian Arthur Eugene Bestor, Jr., Fourierism briefly "established itself as one of the leading theories of social reform in the United States." The 1840s saw no fewer than three hundred attempts to build Fourierist "intentional communities" across America&mdashintentional in the sense that members entered into relation with these communities by deliberate choice. That contrasts sharply with someone's relation to, say, one's family or native region, which is unintentional, unchosen&mdashusually determined by accident of birth.

Few purported Fourieriest communities followed Fourier&rsquos principles closely even fewer interpreted them in the same way. But most involved some degree of communalism, whether in the form of shared labor or something more radical, such as sexual access to one another&rsquos spouses. Most survived for a maximum of three years.

The first Utopian intentional community in America was New Harmony, an Indiana commune founded by reformer Robert Owen in 1824. This pre-Fourierist community was founded on freethought principles pioneer feminist and freethought lecturer Frances Wright spent time at New Harmony, which was also the site of the first nineteenth-century experiment in dress reform. New Harmony failed in 1827.

The first Fourierist community in America was the famous Brook Farm at West Roxbury, Massachusetts. It was launched by a Shaker group in 1841 and continued until 1849, making it one of the longest-lived Fourierist experiments. As noted above, hundreds more followed. Most had some religious basis, whether traditional Christianity or some enthusiastic sect such as the Shakers or the Perfectionists.

Only two Fourierist intentional communities were wholly or significantly based on freethought principles: the Skaneateles Community and the Sodus Bay Phalanx. Both were founded in west-central New York State late in 1843 and failed within three years. (See the Rise and Fall of Skaneateles Community and the Rise and Fall of Sodus Bay Phalanx.)

By fall 1846, no Fourierist community&mdashreligious or otherwise&mdashsurvived between Rochester and Syracuse.

Many intentional communities of this era featured economic, social, or sexual practices that former members&mdashand, later, their descendants&mdashwould find scandalous or shameful. For that reason, the history of the Fourierist craze of the 1840s is often difficult to uncover because records were deliberately destroyed by descendants and sympathetic archivists.

Tag Archives: Charles Fourier

Although it is a footnote to restaurant history, the notion that restaurants could provide a solution to social and domestic problems is one that has cropped up quite a few times in American history, beginning in the 1840s, continuing into the 1970s, and not totally extinct even today.

The idea of community dining began with Frenchman Charles Fourier’s plan for a society organized into communes (phalanxes) where people both lived and worked. Several were established in the United States in the 1840s and 1850s, in Ohio, Texas, Wisconsin, New York, and New Jersey. The North American Phalanx in Red Bank NJ, which continued for 12 years, may have been the longest lasting. Its phalanstery, a kind of hotel or apartment building, had 85 rooms and a “refectory” where members gathered at long tables and chose their meals from a bill of fare with prices.

The Fourier-inspired communes did not survive, but the idea of collective dining did. From the 1870s until World War I feminists saw commercial restaurants as the next, virtually inevitable, step in evolutionary progress that would liberate women from kitchens. Suffragist Tennessee Claflin observed in 1871 that women’s chores such as teaching children and making clothes were leaving the home and becoming special trades. Noting that men were becoming accustomed to eating their midday meal in restaurants, she expected food preparation to be next.

Others observed the same thing, especially with the growing popularity of kitchenless apartments. An 1876 article in The American Socialist viewed NYC apartment buildings where meals were served in ground floor dining rooms as an outgrowth of Fourier’s ideals. Although limited to fairly affluent families then, apartment living was regarded as a step toward universal cooperative housekeeping.

A goal of some futurists and feminists, such as Edward Bellamy and Helen Starrett, was to have complete meals delivered to the home ready to eat. Starrett wrote in 1889 that the solution need not be a non-profit enterprise. Rather, just as butter and soap making had been commercialized, she expected that the business world would find a way to do this profitably. Indeed, in Knoxville, Tennessee, a woman started a meal delivery service as early as 1896, sending out “steaming hot” food to families. The idea got a boost during World War I when a surging war economy drew hired cooks out of affluent households (e.g., Florence Hulling).

Author and social thinker Charlotte Perkins Gilman knew of three cooked food companies in operation, in New Haven, Pittsburgh, and Boston. She fully expected efficient restaurants and food services to replace the home as a site of production, which, she wrote in 1903, “lingers on inert and blind, like a clam in a horse-race.” In her 1909 novel What Diantha Did, the enterprising heroine not only runs a hotel for working women, she also operates a lunchroom for business men, a cooked food delivery service, and a mini-maid service.

Other than supporting utopian societies and liberating women from household chores, the goals of “public service” style restaurants in the 19th and 20th centuries also variously encompassed providing inexpensive lunches for young working women, luring alcoholics away from saloons, resolving labor strife, reducing the cost of living, and promoting healthy diets.

Social motives often lay behind the start of commercial restaurants also, such as the Dennett’s chain whose funding came in part from missionary societies. And some eating places that had their starts as community co-operatives developed into commercial ventures, such as the Hollister Cooperative Coffee Club or the Mission Cafeteria in Long Beach [shown], both in California.

A curious outgrowth of the interest in communal dining occurred in Cleveland OH, where Richard Finley established Finley’s Phalansterie shortly after the turn of the century [pictured above]. Eventually he presided over six eating places in Cleveland and grew rich. Although he chose the generally unfamiliar name to pique interest in his restaurant, it turned out that he did in fact have communitarian motives in mind. His plan, reminiscent of Elbert Hubbard’s Roycroft in East Aurora NY, was to establish a colony in California where workers would live and produce arts and crafts furniture and objects. I was unable to discover how far he succeeded beyond building a hotel and cottages in La Canyada and publishing a magazine called Everyman.

The story of restaurants and eating places with social motives is not complete without mentioning the hippie and communal restaurants of the 1960s and 1970s – but that will be another chapter.

The Execution of Charles I: Causes and Effects

Charles was the son of James VI of Scotland. He became king of Scotland and England in 1612 after his brother’s Henry death. His father wanted to marry him with Spanish Infanta Maria Anna, but it did not turn into truth because the parliament was hateful to Spain.

Charles believed in giving honor to the heads of the church, and he married Henrietta Maria, a Catholic French princess. That also offended many English Protestants. Charles thought that he was above the laws and chosen by God.

Believing in his Divine right, he dissolved parliament three times on different occasions. King…

Read more in Lessons from History · 3 min read

Published in Lessons from History


Fourier was fairly unique among socialists as he articulated sexual inequality as a large causative factor of various social ills, Γ] instead of solely focusing his critiques on alienation and economic exploitation, thus preceding Marcy, Clouscard, Houellebecq, Reich, Nagle and Undersky in his analysis of sexual deprivation from a leftist perspective. Like Undersky, and unlike the much less libertarian Michel Houellebecq, Fourier portrays sexual liberalism as inherently good for incels. Although, only without markets in general and under certain other circumstances. His sex specific writings were not widely known during his lifetime, and were rediscovered in the 1960s. Δ]

Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier

Joseph Fourier's father was a tailor in Auxerre. After the death of his first wife, with whom he had three children, he remarried and Joseph was the ninth of the twelve children of this second marriage. Joseph's mother died went he was nine years old and his father died the following year.

His first schooling was at Pallais's school, run by the music master from the cathedral. There Joseph studied Latin and French and showed great promise. He proceeded in 1780 to the École Royale Militaire of Auxerre where at first he showed talents for literature but very soon, by the age of thirteen, mathematics became his real interest. By the age of 14 he had completed a study of the six volumes of Bézout's Cours de mathématiques. In 1783 he received the first prize for his study of Bossut's Mécanique en général Ⓣ .

In 1787 Fourier decided to train for the priesthood and entered the Benedictine abbey of St Benoit-sur-Loire. His interest in mathematics continued, however, and he corresponded with C L Bonard, the professor of mathematics at Auxerre. Fourier was unsure if he was making the right decision in training for the priesthood. He submitted a paper on algebra to Montucla in Paris and his letters to Bonard suggest that he really wanted to make a major impact in mathematics. In one letter Fourier wrote

This incident was to have serious consequences but after it Fourier returned to Auxerre and continued to work on the revolutionary committee and continued to teach at the College. In July 1794 he was arrested, the charges relating to the Orléans incident, and he was imprisoned. Fourier feared the he would go to the guillotine but, after Robespierre himself went to the guillotine, political changes resulted in Fourier being freed.

Later in 1794 Fourier was nominated to study at the École Normale in Paris. This institution had been set up for training teachers and it was intended to serve as a model for other teacher-training schools. The school opened in January 1795 and Fourier was certainly the most able of the pupils whose abilities ranged widely. He was taught by Lagrange, who Fourier described as

Fourier began teaching at the Collège de France and, having excellent relations with Lagrange, Laplace and Monge, began further mathematical research. He was appointed to a position at the École Centrale des Travaux Publics, the school being under the direction of Lazare Carnot and Gaspard Monge, which was soon to be renamed École Polytechnique. However, repercussions of his earlier arrest remained and he was arrested again and imprisoned. His release has been put down to a variety of different causes, pleas by his pupils, pleas by Lagrange, Laplace or Monge or a change in the political climate. In fact all three may have played a part.

By 1 September 1795 Fourier was back teaching at the École Polytechnique. In 1797 he succeeded Lagrange in being appointed to the chair of analysis and mechanics. He was renowned as an outstanding lecturer but he does not appear to have undertaken original research during this time.

In 1798 Fourier joined Napoleon's army in its invasion of Egypt as scientific adviser. Monge and Malus were also part of the expeditionary force. The expedition was at first a great success. Malta was occupied on 10 June 1798 , Alexandria taken by storm on 1 July, and the delta of the Nile quickly taken. However, on 1 August 1798 the French fleet was completely destroyed by Nelson's fleet in the Battle of the Nile, so that Napoleon found himself confined to the land that he was occupying. Fourier acted as an administrator as French type political institutions and administration was set up. In particular he helped establish educational facilities in Egypt and carried out archaeological explorations.

While in Cairo Fourier helped found the Cairo Institute and was one of the twelve members of the mathematics division, the others included Monge, Malus and Napoleon himself. Fourier was elected secretary to the Institute, a position he continued to hold during the entire French occupation of Egypt. Fourier was also put in charge of collating the scientific and literary discoveries made during the time in Egypt.

Napoleon abandoned his army and returned to Paris in 1799 , he soon held absolute power in France. Fourier returned to France in 1801 with the remains of the expeditionary force and resumed his post as Professor of Analysis at the École Polytechnique. However Napoleon had other ideas about how Fourier might serve him and wrote:-

Fourier was not happy at the prospect of leaving the academic world and Paris but could not refuse Napoleon's request. He went to Grenoble where his duties as Prefect were many and varied. His two greatest achievements in this administrative position were overseeing the operation to drain the swamps of Bourgoin and supervising the construction of a new highway from Grenoble to Turin. He also spent much time working on the Description of Egypt which was not completed until 1810 when Napoleon made changes, rewriting history in places, to it before publication. By the time a second edition appeared every reference to Napoleon would have been removed.

It was during his time in Grenoble that Fourier did his important mathematical work on the theory of heat. His work on the topic began around 1804 and by 1807 he had completed his important memoir On the Propagation of Heat in Solid Bodies. The memoir was read to the Paris Institute on 21 December 1807 and a committee consisting of Lagrange, Laplace, Monge and Lacroix was set up to report on the work. Now this memoir is very highly regarded but at the time it caused controversy.

There were two reasons for the committee to feel unhappy with the work. The first objection, made by Lagrange and Laplace in 1808 , was to Fourier's expansions of functions as trigonometrical series, what we now call Fourier series. Further clarification by Fourier still failed to convince them. As is pointed out in [ 4 ] :-

The second objection was made by Biot against Fourier's derivation of the equations of transfer of heat. Fourier had not made reference to Biot's 1804 paper on this topic but Biot's paper is certainly incorrect. Laplace, and later Poisson, had similar objections.

The Institute set as a prize competition subject the propagation of heat in solid bodies for the 1811 mathematics prize. Fourier submitted his 1807 memoir together with additional work on the cooling of infinite solids and terrestrial and radiant heat. Only one other entry was received and the committee set up to decide on the award of the prize, Lagrange, Laplace, Malus, Haüy and Legendre, awarded Fourier the prize. The report was not however completely favourable and states:-

With this rather mixed report there was no move in Paris to publish Fourier's work.

When Napoleon was defeated and on his way to exile in Elba, his route should have been through Grenoble. Fourier managed to avoid this difficult confrontation by sending word that it would be dangerous for Napoleon. When he learnt of Napoleon's escape from Elba and that he was marching towards Grenoble with an army, Fourier was extremely worried. He tried to persuade the people of Grenoble to oppose Napoleon and give their allegiance to the King. However as Napoleon marched into the town by one gate Fourier left in haste by another.

Napoleon was angry with Fourier who he had hoped would welcome his return. Fourier was able to talk his way into favour with both sides and Napoleon made him Prefect of the Rhône. However Fourier soon resigned on receiving orders, possibly from Carnot, that the was to remove all administrators with royalist sympathies. He could not have completely fallen out with Napoleon and Carnot, however, for on 10 June 1815 , Napoleon awarded him a pension of 6000 francs, payable from 1 July. However Napoleon was defeated on 1 July and Fourier did not receive any money. He returned to Paris.

Fourier was elected to the Académie des Sciences in 1817 . In 1822 Delambre, who was the Secretary to the mathematical section of the Académie des Sciences, died and Fourier together with Biot and Arago applied for the post. After Arago withdrew the election gave Fourier an easy win. Shortly after Fourier became Secretary, the Académie published his prize winning essay Théorie analytique de la chaleur in 1822 . This was not a piece of political manoeuvring by Fourier however since Delambre had arranged for the printing before he died.

During Fourier's eight last years in Paris he resumed his mathematical researches and published a number of papers, some in pure mathematics while some were on applied mathematical topics. His life was not without problems however since his theory of heat still provoked controversy. Biot claimed priority over Fourier, a claim which Fourier had little difficulty showing to be false. Poisson, however, attacked both Fourier's mathematical techniques and also claimed to have an alternative theory. Fourier wrote Historical Précis Ⓣ as a reply to these claims but, although the work was shown to various mathematicians, it was never published.

Fourier's views on the claims of Biot and Poisson are given in the following, see [ 4 ] :-


Fourier was born at Auxerre (now in the Yonne département of France), the son of a tailor. He was orphaned at the age of nine. Fourier was recommended to the Bishop of Auxerre and, through this introduction, he was educated by the Benedictine Order of the Convent of St. Mark. The commissions in the scientific corps of the army were reserved for those of good birth, and being thus ineligible, he accepted a military lectureship on mathematics. He took a prominent part in his own district in promoting the French Revolution, serving on the local Revolutionary Committee. He was imprisoned briefly during the Terror but, in 1795, was appointed to the École Normale and subsequently succeeded Joseph-Louis Lagrange at the École Polytechnique.

Fourier accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte on his Egyptian expedition in 1798, as scientific adviser, and was appointed secretary of the Institut d'Égypte. Cut off from France by the British fleet, he organized the workshops on which the French army had to rely for their munitions of war. He also contributed several mathematical papers to the Egyptian Institute (also called the Cairo Institute) which Napoleon founded at Cairo, with a view of weakening British influence in the East. After the British victories and the capitulation of the French under General Menou in 1801, Fourier returned to France.

In 1801, [4] Napoleon appointed Fourier Prefect (Governor) of the Department of Isère in Grenoble, where he oversaw road construction and other projects. However, Fourier had previously returned home from the Napoleon expedition to Egypt to resume his academic post as professor at École Polytechnique when Napoleon decided otherwise in his remark

. the Prefect of the Department of Isère having recently died, I would like to express my confidence in citizen Fourier by appointing him to this place. [4]

Hence being faithful to Napoleon, he took the office of Prefect. [4] It was while at Grenoble that he began to experiment on the propagation of heat. He presented his paper On the Propagation of Heat in Solid Bodies to the Paris Institute on December 21, 1807. He also contributed to the monumental Description de l'Égypte. [5]

In 1822, Fourier succeeded Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre as Permanent Secretary of the French Academy of Sciences. In 1830, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.

In 1830, his diminished health began to take its toll:

Fourier had already experienced, in Egypt and Grenoble, some attacks of aneurism of the heart. At Paris, it was impossible to be mistaken with respect to the primary cause of the frequent suffocations which he experienced. A fall, however, which he sustained on the 4th of May 1830, while descending a flight of stairs, aggravated the malady to an extent beyond what could have been ever feared. [6]

Shortly after this event, he died in his bed on 16 May 1830.

Fourier was buried in the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris, a tomb decorated with an Egyptian motif to reflect his position as secretary of the Cairo Institute, and his collation of Description de l'Égypte. His name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower.

A bronze statue was erected in Auxerre in 1849, but it was melted down for armaments during World War II. [a] Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble is named after him.

In 1822, Fourier published his work on heat flow in Théorie analytique de la chaleur (The Analytical Theory of Heat), [7] in which he based his reasoning on Newton's law of cooling, namely, that the flow of heat between two adjacent molecules is proportional to the extremely small difference of their temperatures. This book was translated, [8] with editorial 'corrections', [9] into English 56 years later by Freeman (1878). [10] The book was also edited, with many editorial corrections, by Darboux and republished in French in 1888. [9]

There were three important contributions in this work, one purely mathematical, two essentially physical. In mathematics, Fourier claimed that any function of a variable, whether continuous or discontinuous, can be expanded in a series of sines of multiples of the variable. Though this result is not correct without additional conditions, Fourier's observation that some discontinuous functions are the sum of infinite series was a breakthrough. The question of determining when a Fourier series converges has been fundamental for centuries. Joseph-Louis Lagrange had given particular cases of this (false) theorem, and had implied that the method was general, but he had not pursued the subject. Peter Gustav Lejeune Dirichlet was the first to give a satisfactory demonstration of it with some restrictive conditions. This work provides the foundation for what is today known as the Fourier transform.

One important physical contribution in the book was the concept of dimensional homogeneity in equations i.e. an equation can be formally correct only if the dimensions match on either side of the equality Fourier made important contributions to dimensional analysis. [11] The other physical contribution was Fourier's proposal of his partial differential equation for conductive diffusion of heat. This equation is now taught to every student of mathematical physics.

Fourier left an unfinished work on determining and locating real roots of polynomials, which was edited by Claude-Louis Navier and published in 1831. This work contains much original matter—in particular, Fourier's theorem on polynomial real roots, published in 1820. [12] François Budan, in 1807 and 1811, had published independently his theorem (also known by the name of Fourier), which is very close to Fourier's theorem (each theorem is a corollary of the other). Fourier's proof [12] is the one that was usually given, during 19th century, in textbooks on the theory of equations. [b] A complete solution of the problem was given in 1829 by Jacques Charles François Sturm.

In the 1820s, Fourier calculated that an object the size of the Earth, and at its distance from the Sun, should be considerably colder than the planet actually is if warmed by only the effects of incoming solar radiation. He examined various possible sources of the additional observed heat in articles published in 1824 [13] and 1827. [14] While he ultimately suggested that interstellar radiation might be responsible for a large portion of the additional warmth, Fourier's consideration of the possibility that the Earth's atmosphere might act as an insulator of some kind is widely recognized as the first proposal of what is now known as the greenhouse effect, [15] although Fourier never called it that. [16] [17]

In his articles, Fourier referred to an experiment by de Saussure, who lined a vase with blackened cork. Into the cork, he inserted several panes of transparent glass, separated by intervals of air. Midday sunlight was allowed to enter at the top of the vase through the glass panes. The temperature became more elevated in the more interior compartments of this device. Fourier concluded that gases in the atmosphere could form a stable barrier like the glass panes. [14] This conclusion may have contributed to the later use of the metaphor of the "greenhouse effect" to refer to the processes that determine atmospheric temperatures. [18] Fourier noted that the actual mechanisms that determine the temperatures of the atmosphere included convection, which was not present in de Saussure's experimental device.

Watch the video: Charles Fourier and Cuck Philosophy (May 2022).