Catholic Scientist of the Past

Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis

May 21, 1792 to September 19, 1843

Gaspard-Gustave de Coriolis (May 21, 1792 to September 19, 1843)  Coriolis was a French mathematician and mechanical engineer who discovered and derived the equations for the pseudo-forces needed to describe motion in a rotating frame of reference. One of these forces is called the “Coriolis force” in his honor, as is the “Coriolis effect” that it produces.  (Another such pseudo-force is called “centrifugal force.”) One of the most familiar consequences of the Coriolis effect is the rotation of storms clockwise in the Southern hemisphere and counterclockwise in the Northern hemisphere. Coriolis was also the first person to use the term “work” for force times the distance over which it acts.  Coriolis was a devout Catholic and this comes out in much of his correspondence.  In his youth he considered a religious vocation and towards the end of his life he wrote in a letter “Ah, if we did not need studies to become a Jesuit or a Benedictine and if my health allowed me I would be happy to enter [the priesthood].”

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