Barnabé Brisson

Born: 11 Oct 1777 in Lyon, France
Died: 25 Sept 1828 in Nevers, France

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Barnabé Brisson studied at the Collège Oratorien de Juilly. In 1793 he entered the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées in Paris and, the following year, he began to study at the newly created Ecole Centrale des Travaux Publics which had opened that year. In 1795, while Brisson was a student there, the Ecole Centrale des Travaux Publics was renamed the Ecole Polytechnique.

Brisson was a fellow student with Biot, and was highly thought of by Monge who was one of his teachers. He graduated in 1796 and then was admitted to the Corps des Ponts et Chaussées.

He specialised in the design and construction of ship canals; in particular he applied descriptive geometry to problems of canals. He became a civil engineer for the region of Doubs, in eastern France near the Swiss border. Between 1802 and 1809 he collaborated in the construction of the St Quentin Canal. This canal with a 5 km tunnel, opened in 1810. It linked the North Sea and the Scheldt and Lys systems with the English Channel via the Somme. It also linked with Paris and Le Havre via the Oise and the Seine.

Between 1809 and 1814 Brisson was employed extending dikes and canals in the l'Escaut region. These connect the rivers Somme, Oise and Escaut, connecting the region with the navigable waterways that link Paris and Flanders.

In 1820 Brisson was appointed professor of stereometry and construction at the Ecole des Ponts et Chaussées. In addition he was secretary of the Conseil Royal des Ponts et Chaussées from 1824.

Brisson married Monge's niece and his friend Biot became his brother-in-law. He went on to edit the fourth edition of Monge's Géométrie descriptive adding two new chapters.

His favourite topic was partial differential equations and two important papers he submitted to the Academy applied functional calculus using a symbolic scheme to solve linear differential equations. These papers were praised by Cauchy for their elegance and importance and influenced him in developing methods of functional calculus.

References (2 books/articles)

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JOC/EFR December 1996