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Chapter 20:
The Legacy of Fourier
In his eulogy of Joseph Fourier to the Paris Academy of Sciences, Francois Arago concluded, “My object will have been completely attained if … each of you have learned that the progress of general physics, of terrestrial physics, and of geology will daily multiply the fertile applications of the Theorie de la Chaleur, and that this work will transmit the name of Fourier down to the remotest posterity.” Although Arago thus predicted a legacy of the use of Fourier’s mathematical treatment used to describe the conduction of heat, in 1833 he could hardly envisage those benefits to be derived in optics. Today, Fourier optics and Fourier transform spectroscopy are widely practiced by scientists with little knowledge of the life of Joseph Fourier.
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