Flammarion, Camille 1842 - 1925


(1842-1925), astronomer

Camille Flammarion was born in Montigny-le-Roi, France on 26 February 1842. His interest in astronomy dates from his early childhood, having observed solar eclipses on 9 October 1847 and 28 July 1851. By the time he was eleven he was busily making astronomical and meteorological observations. In 1956 his family moved to Paris where he found employment as an apprentice engraver, attended evening courses at the Polytechnic Association, and pursued his studies of algebra and geometry.

Flammarion’s 500-page manuscript titled ‘Cosmogonie universelle’ eventually came to the attention of Le Verrier, director of the Paris Observatory, and he was hired as an apprentice astronomer. In 1861 Flammarion wrote La pluralite des mondes habites, his first book to be published. Increasingly interested in the problems of the atmosphere, he made a series of balloon flights between 1867 and 1880 to study atmospheric phenomena. In 1880, ‘Astronomie populaire’ was published, Flammarion’s best-known work that spread interest in astronomy.

His scientific interests widened to include volcanology, atmospheric electricity, climatology and the planet Mars. At the Juvisy Observatory, founded by him in 1883, Flammarion made numerous observations. In 1909 he completed ‘La planete Mars et ses conditions d'habitabilite’, a compilation of all known observations since 1636.

In 1887 Flammarion founded the French Astronomical Society, a model for all groups aiming to spread interest in science among the public. The French Astronomical Society created a reservoir of scientists from which emerged most of the outstanding French astronomers of this century.

Flammarion died in Juvisy, France on 3 June 1925, aged 83.