Paul Langevin

Paul Langevin ForMemRS[1] (/lænʒˈveɪn/;[2] French: [pɔl lɑ̃ʒvɛ̃]; 23 January 1872 – 19 December 1946) was a French physicist who developed Langevin dynamics and the Langevin equation. He was one of the founders of the Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes, an antifascist organization created in the wake of the 6 February 1934 far right riots. Langevin was also president of the Human Rights League (LDH) from 1944 to 1946 – he had just recently joined the French Communist Party. Being a public opponent against fascism in the 1930s resulted in his arrest and consequently he was held under house arrest by the Vichy government for most of the war.

Previously a doctoral student of Pierre Curie and later a lover of Marie Curie, he is also famous for his two US patents with Constantin Chilowsky in 1916 and 1917 involving ultrasonic submarine detection.[3] He is entombed at the Panthéon.

Paul Langevin
Paul Langevin Wellcome2
Born23 January 1872
Paris, France
Died19 December 1946 (aged 74)
Paris, France
Alma materUniversity of Cambridge
Collège de France
University of Paris (Sorbonne)
Known forLangevin equation
Heisenberg–Langevin equations
Langevin dynamics
Langevin function
Twin paradox
AwardsHughes Medal (1915)
Copley Medal (1940)
Fellow of the Royal Society[1]
Scientific career
École Normale Supérieure
ThesisResearch on ionized gases (1902)
Doctoral advisorsPierre Curie
Joseph John Thomson
Gabriel Lippmann
Doctoral studentsIrène Joliot-Curie
Louis de Broglie
Léon Brillouin


Langevin was born in Paris, and studied at the École de Physique et Chimie[4] and the École Normale Supérieure. He then went to Cambridge University and studied in the Cavendish Laboratory under Sir J. J. Thomson.[5] Langevin returned to the Sorbonne and obtained his Ph.D. from Pierre Curie in 1902. In 1904, he became professor of physics at the Collège de France. In 1926, he became director of the École de Physique et Chimie (later became École supérieure de physique et de chimie industrielles de la Ville de Paris, ESPCI ParisTech), where he had been educated. He was elected in 1934 to the Académie des sciences.

Albert Einstein, Paul Ehrenfest, Paul Langevin, Heike Kamerlingh Onnes, and Pierre Weiss at Ehrenfest's home in Leiden

Langevin is noted for his work on paramagnetism and diamagnetism, and devised the modern interpretation of this phenomenon in terms of spins of electrons within atoms.[6] His most famous work was in the use of ultrasound using Pierre Curie's piezoelectric effect. During World War I, he began working on the use of these sounds to detect submarines through echo location.[3] However the war was over by the time it was operational. During his career, Paul Langevin also spread the theory of relativity in academic circles in France and created what is now called the twin paradox.[7][8]

In 1898, he married Emma Jeanne Desfosses, with whom he had four children, Jean, André, Madeleine and Hélène.

In 1910, he reportedly had an affair with the then-widowed Marie Curie;[9][10][11][12] some decades later, their respective grandchildren, grandson Michel Langevin and granddaughter Hélène Langevin-Joliot got married to one another. He was also noted for being an outspoken opponent of Nazism, and was removed from his post by the Vichy government following the occupation of the country by Nazi Germany. He was later restored to his position in 1944. He died in Paris in 1946, two years after living to see the Liberation of Paris. He is buried near several other prominent French scientists in the Pantheon in Paris.

In 1933, he had a son, Paul-Gilbert Langevin, with physicist Eliane Montel (1898-1992). Their son became later a renowned musicologist.

His daughter, Hélène Solomon-Langevin, was arrested for Resistance activity and survived several concentration camps. She was on the same convoy of female political prisoners as Marie-Claude Vaillant-Couturier and Charlotte Delbo.

Pioneers of Submarine Detection.tiff
Pioneers in the development and application of piezoelectric transducers for the goal of submarine detection (a) Paul Langevin, (b) Robert William Boyle, (c) Cross-sectional view of a form of quartz transducer designed by Boyle in 1917, as recorded in the BIR (Board of Invention and Research) document 38164/17

Submarine detection

In 1916 and 1917, Paul Langevin and Chilowsky filed two US patents disclosing the first ultrasonic submarine detector using an electrostatic method (singing condenser) for one patent and thin quartz crystals for the other. The amount of time taken by the signal to travel to the enemy submarine and echo back to the ship on which the device was mounted was used to calculate the distance under water.

In 1916, Lord Ernest Rutherford, working in the UK with his former McGill University PhD student Robert William Boyle, revealed that they were developing a quartz piezoelectric detector for submarine detection. Langevin's successful application of the use of piezoelectricity in the generation and detection of ultrasound waves was followed by further development.[13]

See also


  1. ^ a b Joliot, F. (1951). "Paul Langevin. 1872–1946". Obituary Notices of Fellows of the Royal Society. 7 (20): 405–426. doi:10.1098/rsbm.1951.0009. JSTOR 769027.
  2. ^ "Langevin": entry in the American Heritage Science Dictionary, 2002.
  3. ^ a b Manbachi, A.; Cobbold, R. S. C. (2011). "Development and application of piezoelectric materials for ultrasound generation and detection". Ultrasound. 19 (4): 187. doi:10.1258/ult.2011.011027.
  4. ^ ESPCI ParisTech Alumni 1891.
  5. ^ He may not have been formally entered as a member of the university, as he is not found in John Venn's Alumni Cantabrigienses
  6. ^ Mehra, Jagdish; Rechenberg, Helmut (2001). The Historical Development of Quantum Theory. Springer Science & Business Media. p. 423. ISBN 9780387951751.
  7. ^ Paty, Michel (2012). "Relativity in France". In Glick, T. F. (ed.). The Comparative Reception of Relativity. Springer Science & Business Media. pp. 113–168. ISBN 9789400938755. Retrieved 13 December 2017.
  8. ^ Langevin, P. (1911), "The Evolution of Space and Time", Scientia, X: 31–54 (translated by J. B. Sykes, 1973 from the original French: "L'évolution de l'espace et du temps").
  9. ^ Robert Reid (1978) [1974] Marie Curie, pp. 44, 90.
  10. ^ Loren Graham and Jean-Michel Kantor (2009) Naming Infinity. Belknap Press. ISBN 0674032934. p. 43.
  11. ^ Françoise Giroud (Davis, Lydia trans.), Marie Curie: A life, Holmes and Meier, 1986, ISBN 0-8419-0977-6.
  12. ^ Susan Quinn (1995) Marie Curie: A Life, Heinemann. ISBN 0-434-60503-4.
  13. ^ Arshadi, R.; Cobbold, R. S. C. (2007). "A pioneer in the development of modern ultrasound: Robert William Boyle (1883–1955)". Ultrasound in Medicine & Biology. 33: 3. doi:10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2006.07.030.


Further reading

External links

Bernard Julia

Bernard Julia (born 1952 in Paris) is a French theoretical physicist who has made contributions to the theory of supergravity. He graduated from Université Paris-Sud in 1978,

and is directeur de recherche with the CNRS working at the École Normale Supérieure. In 1978, together with Eugène Cremmer and Joël Scherk, he constructed 11-dimensional supergravity.

Shortly afterwards, Cremmer and Julia constructed the classical Lagrangian for four-dimensional N=8 supergravity by dimensional reduction from the 11-dimensional theory. Julia also studied spontaneous symmetry breaking and the Higgs mechanism in supergravityOther work includes a study, with A. Zee, of particles called dyons that carry both electric and magnetic charges

and many papers on string theory, M-theory, and dualities.

In 1986, Julia was awarded the Prix Paul Langevin of the Société Française de Physique.


Choisy-le-Roi is a commune in the Val-de-Marne department in the southeastern suburbs of Paris, France.

Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes

The Watchfulness Committee of Antifascist Intellectuals (Comité de vigilance des intellectuels antifascistes, CVIA) was a French political organization created in March 1934, in the wake of the February 6, 1934 riots organized by far right leagues, which had led to the fall of the second Cartel des gauches (Left-Wing Coalition) government. Founded by Pierre Gérôme, philosopher Alain, physicist Paul Langevin and ethnologist Paul Rivet, it edited a newsletter, Vigilance, and boasted more than 6,000 members at the end of 1934. The CVIA had an important role in the unification of the three left-wing families (Radical-Socialist Party, French Section of the Workers' International (SFIO, socialist party) and Communist Party) which led to the Popular Front in 1936. It divided itself however on the attitude to adopt toward Nazi Germany: while most members opposed the appeasement policy which led to the November 1938 Munich Agreement, some upheld pacifism over all.

Czesław Białobrzeski

Czesław Białobrzeski (31 August 1878 in Poshekhonye near Yaroslavl, Russia – 12 October 1953 in Warsaw) was a Polish physicist.

He studied 1896–1901 at the University of Kiev, continued 1908–1810 as a student of Paul Langevin at Collège de France, Paris. 1914 he was nominated professor at the Kiev University. 1919 he moved to Poland and became Head of department at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków, 1921 at the University of Warsaw. Since 1921 he was member of the Polish Academy of Learning, since 1952 of the Polish Academy of Sciences.

Czesław Białobrzeski wrote about 100 scientific papers on thermodynamics, theory of relativity, quantum theory, theory of stellar evolution and structure, spectrography, astrophysics and philosophy of physics.

He was the first to take account of the influence of radiation pressure on stellar equilibrium.

Eliane Montel

Eliane Montel (1898–1992) was a French physicist and chemist.

Georges Sagnac

Georges Sagnac (14 October 1869 – 26 February 1928) was a French physicist who lent his name to the Sagnac effect, a phenomenon which is at the basis of interferometers and ring laser gyroscopes developed since the 1970s.

Georgi Nadjakov

Georgi Nadjakov (also spelled Georgi Nadzhakov) (Bulgarian: Георги Наджаков) (26 December 1896 – 24 February 1981) was a Bulgarian physicist. He became a corresponding member of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences (1940) in Germany, member of the Bulgarian Academy of Sciences (1945) and member of the Russian Academy of Sciences (1958).

Sofia University sent him to specialize in the laboratories of Paul Langevin and Marie Curie in Paris, where he investigated photoelectricity for one year.

Georgi Nadjakov experimentally investigated photoconducting properties of sulphur. He prepared the permanent photoelectret state of matter for the first time and published his paper in 1937

and 1938. He called the electret discovered by Mototaro Eguchi in 1919, thermoelectret and the electret discovered by him in 1937, photoelectret.

Photoelectrets were the most notable achievement of Georgi Nadjakov. Its practical application led to the invention of the photocopier by Chester Carlson some years later.

Heisenberg–Langevin equations

The Heisenberg–Langevin equations (named after Werner Heisenberg and Paul Langevin) are equations for open quantum systems. They are a specific case of quantum Langevin equations.

In the Heisenberg picture the time evolution of a quantum system is the operators themselves. The solution to the Heisenberg equation of motion determines the subsequent time evolution of the operators. The Heisenberg–Langevin equation is the generalization of this to open quantum systems.

Institut Laue–Langevin

The Institut Laue–Langevin (ILL) is an internationally financed scientific facility, situated on the Polygone Scientifique in Grenoble, France. It is one of the world centres for research using neutrons. Founded in 1967 and honouring the physicists Max von Laue and Paul Langevin, the ILL provides one of the most intense neutron sources in the world and the most intense continuous neutron flux in the world in the moderator region: 1.5×1015 neutrons per second per cm2, with a thermal power of typically 58.3 MW.

The ILL neutron scattering facilities allow the analysis of the structure of conducting and magnetic materials for future electronic devices, the measurement of stresses in mechanical materials. It also allows investigations into macromolecular assemblies, particularly protein dynamics and biomolecular structure. It is a world-renowned centre for nanoscale science.

Jean Ginibre

Jean Ginibre is a French mathematical physicist, known for his contributions to random matrix theory (see circular law), statistical mechanics (see FKG inequality, Ginibre inequality), and partial differential equations. He received the Paul Langevin Prize in 1969.Jean Ginibre is Emeritus Professor at Paris-Sud 11 University.

Langevin dynamics

In physics, Langevin dynamics is an approach to the mathematical modeling of the dynamics of molecular systems, originally developed by the French physicist Paul Langevin. The approach is characterized by the use of simplified models while accounting for omitted degrees of freedom by the use of stochastic differential equations.

Langevin family

The Langevin family is a French family with some prominent scientists. French psychiatrist Philippe Pinel, and French physicist Paul Langevin, both members of the French Academy of Sciences, are the most prominent members.

Lycée Professionnel Paul Langevin

The Lycée Professionnel Paul Langevin de Beaucaire (French pronunciation: [lə lise pʁɔfesionɛl pol lɑ̃ʒvɛ̃ də bokɛʁ]) is a state school in Beaucaire, situated on "Rue de la Redoute" in the downtown. It has approximately 300 students, from secondary school to Baccalauréat. Founded in 1970, the Lycée has both traditional buildings and modern constructions. Since 2009 Lycée has been restructured with more of 12 million euros. As of 2012, the school's director is Pascal Lorblanchet.


Malakoff French pronunciation: ​[ɔf] is a suburban commune in the Hauts-de-Seine department southwest of Paris, France. It is located 5 km (3.1 mi) from the centre of the city. EUROCAE, the European Organisation for Civil Aviation Equipment is based in Malakoff.

Paul Langevin (politician)

Paul Andre Joseph Langevin (January 15, 1942 – November 11, 2008) is a former provincial politician from Alberta, Canada.

Time for the Stars

Time for the Stars is a juvenile science fiction novel by American writer Robert A. Heinlein, published by Scribner's in 1956 as one of the Heinlein juveniles. The basic plot line is derived from a 1911 thought experiment in special relativity, commonly called the twin paradox, proposed by French physicist Paul Langevin.

Vsevolod Frederiks

Vsevolod Konstantinovich Frederiks (or Fréedericksz; Russian: Всеволод Константинович Фредерикс pronounced [ˈvʲsʲɛvəɫəd fʲrʲɪdʲɪˈrʲiks]; April 29, 1885, Warsaw – January 6, 1944, Gorkiy) was a Russian/Soviet physicist. His primary contribution to physics was in the field of liquid crystals. The Frederiks transition was named after him.

After high school Frederiks attended Geneva University and for one semester attended the lectures of Paul Langevin in Paris. After defending his thesis and obtaining his PhD, Fredericks decided to continue his studies at Göttingen University. He was there for more than eight years, and with the outbreak of World War I he became a civil prisoner. During that period he became personal assistant to David Hilbert.

In the summer of 1918 Frederiks returned to Russia, and worked at the Institute of Physics and Biophysics in Moscow. In 1919 he became a lecturer at the University of Petrograd.

He was arrested by the NKVD in 1937, and although released before the war he died before reaching home.

Wang Dezhao

Wang Dezhao or Ouang Te-Tchao (Chinese: 汪德昭; December 20, 1905 – December 28, 1998) was a French-educated Chinese physicist who was known for his research in atmospheric electricity and underwater acoustics. Under the direction of Paul Langevin, he helped the French improve sonar at the beginning of World War II and after his return to China, Wang was considered as the founder of national defense water acoustics in China.

Recipients of the Copley Medal (1901–1950)

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