Jean Baptiste Joseph Fourier (March 21, 1768 – May 16, 1830) was a French mathematician and physicist who is best known for initiating the investigation of Fourier series and their application to problems of heat flow. The Fourier transform is also named in his honor.
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The Analytical Theory of Heat (1878)
- As translated by Alexander Freeman - Full text online
- Primary causes are unknown to us; but are subject to simple and constant laws, which may be discovered by observation, the study of them being the object of natural philosophy.
Heat, like gravity, penetrates every substance of the universe, its rays occupy all parts of space. The object of our work is to set forth the mathematical laws which this element obeys. The theory of heat will hereafter form one of the most important branches of general physics.
- Ch. 1, p. 1
- If we consider further the manifold relations of this mathematical theory to civil uses and the technical arts, we shall recognize completely the extent of its applications. It is evident that it includes an entire series of distinct phenomena, and that the study of it cannot be omitted without losing a notable part of the science of nature.
The principles of the theory are derived, as are those of rational mechanics, from a very small number of primary facts, the causes of which are not considered by geometers, but which they admit as the results of common observations confirmed by all experiment.
- Ch. 1, p. 6
- Profound study of nature is the most fertile source of mathematical discoveries.
- Ch. 1, p. 7
- Mathematical analysis is as extensive as nature itself; it defines all perceptible relations, measures times, spaces, forces, temperatures ; this difficult science is formed slowly, but it preserves every principle which it has once acquired; it grows and strengthens itself incessantly in the midst of the many variations and errors of the human mind.
It's chief attribute is clearness; it has no marks to express confused notations. It brings together phenomena the most diverse, and discovers the hidden analogies which unite them.
- Often quoted as Mathematics compares the most diverse phenomena and discovers the secret analogies that unite them.