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Edmond Becquerel

1820 - 1891

Edmond Becquerel, 1820 - 1891

Alexandre-Edmond Becquerel is the second of four generations of notable Becquerel physicists. He continued his father's pioneering work in the field of electricity and luminescence. His son went on to win the Nobel Prize for Physics.

  • Nationality
  • French

  • Subject
  • Physics

  • Fields
  • Spectra, magnetism, electricity, optics, photographic chemistry

  • Distinctions
  • Heralded as the discoverer of the Photovoltaic Effect

    The Becquerel Prize is awarded annually for work in photovoltaics, by the EU PVSEC (European Photovoltaic Solar Energy Conference and Exhibition).

  • Posts
  • Edmond followed in his illustrious father's footsteps, becoming his successor as professor of physics at the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle.

    Chair of physics at the Conservatoire des Arts et Métiers, 1853.

  • Publications
  • La lumière, ses causes et ses effets, 1867-8 (Light, its Causes and Effects), two volume standard text on light theory.

    Becquerel wrote many papers for the French Academy of Science (Comptes Rendus - Rendered Accounts), from 1839 - 1891.

  • Theories
  • Solar spectrum, luminescence, and phosphorescence

    Magnetism: diamagnetic and paramagnetic properties of substances.

    Electricity: electrochemical decomposition, which led the way to Faraday's discovery of the law of Electrolysis.

    Optics and photographic chemistry, including early colour sensitivity of silver halides.

    Photovoltaic effect: in 1839, Becquerel described the theory behind the solar cell. Silver chloride in acidic solution generated electrical potential and current across platinum electrodes only while exposed to sunlight. Also known as the 'Becquerel Effect'

  • Experiments/Discoveries
  • Photovoltaic effect

    Luminescence and phosphorescence

Edmond Becquerel was the father of Henri Becquerel, who received the Nobel Prize, along with the Curies, and after whom the SI unit of radioactivity is named. Edmond's father, Antoine, was also a physicist and pioneer of electric and luminescent phenomena.

Edmond's work was ground-breaking in a large number of fields. His experiments into solar and electrical spectra were pioneering inspirations for many physicists, such as Faraday and Maxwell. He is known as the inventor of the first photovoltaic cell, and advanced the chemistry of photography.

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