Auguste Arthur de la Rive - Encyclopedia




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AUGUSTE ARTHUR DE LA RIVE (1801-1873), Swiss physicist, was born at Geneva on the 9th of October 1801. He was the son of Charles Gaspard de la Rive (1770-1834), who studied medicine at Edinburgh, and after practising for a few years in London, became professor of pharmaceutical chemistry at the academy of Geneva in 1802 and rector in 1823. After a brilliant career as a student, he was appointed at the age of twenty-two to the chair of natural philosophy in the academy of Geneva. For some years after his appointment he devoted himself specially, with Francois Marcet (1803-1883), to the investigation of the specific heat of gases, and to observations for determining the temperature of the earth's crust. Electrical studies, however, engaged most of his attention, especially in connexion with the theory of the voltaic cell and the electric discharge in rarefied gases. His researches on the last-mentioned subject led him to form a new theory of the aurora borealis. In 1840 he described a process for the electro-gilding of silver and brass, for which in the following year he received a prize of 3000 francs from the French Academy of Sciences. Between 1854 and 1858 he published a Traite de l'electricite theorique et appliquee, which was translated into several languages. De la Rive's birth and fortune gave him considerable social and political influence. He was distinguished for his hospitality to literary and scientific men, and for his interest in the welfare and independence of his native country. In 1860, when the annexation of Savoy and Nice had led the Genevese to fear French aggression, de la Rive was sent by his fellow-citizens on a special embassy to England, and succeeded in securing a declaration from the English government, which was communicated privately to that of France, that any attack upon Geneva would be regarded as a cases belli. On the occasion of this visit the university of Oxford conferred upon de la Rive the honorary degree of D.C.L. When on his way to pass the winter at Cannes he died suddenly at Marseilles on the 27th of November 1873.

His son, Lucien De La Rive, born at Geneva on the 3rd of April 1834, published papers on various mathematical and physical subjects, and with Edouard Sarasin carried out investigations on the propagation of electric waves.

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