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Portrait of Jean Baptiste, Baron Fourier (1768- 1830), French mathematician. An orphan, Fourier studied at a military school, hoping to become an artillery officer like his contemporary, Napoleon. Fourier was a brilliant mathematician, and after a visit to Egypt with Napoleon returned to his studies. In attempting to show how heat was transferred between two points, he developed his theory of harmonic analysis. This showed that any periodic oscillation could be described as the sum of simple, regular wave motions and thus be expressed as a mathematical series. Fourier's method is now used in the analysis of all wave forms. He was made a Baron by Napoleon in 1808.
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