Saturday, October 3, 2009

October 3: Hervé Faye

Hervé Auguste Étienne Albans Faye
October 3, 1814 – July 4, 1902

Hervé Faye was a French astronomer, born at Saint-Benoît-du-Sault and educated at the Ecole Polytechnique, which he left in 1834, before completing his course, to accept a position in the Paris Observatory to which he had been appointed on the recommendation of M. Arago.

He studied comets, and discovered the periodic comet 4P/Faye on November 22, 1843. His discovery of "Faye's comet" attracted worldwide attention, and won him the Lalande prize and a membership in the Academy of Sciences. In 1848 he became an instructor in geodesy at the Polytechnique, and in 1854 rector of the academy at Nancy and professor of astronomy in the faculty of science there. Other promotions followed in succeeding decades. He became Minister of Public Instruction in the Rochebouet cabinet in 1877, a position which he held only briefly.

His work covered the entire field of astronomical investigation. It comprised the determination of comet periods, the measurement of parallaxes, and the study of stellar and planetary movements. He also studied the physics of the sun. He advanced several original theories on the nature and form of comets, meteors, the aurora borealis, and the sun.

In collaboration with Charles Galusky he translated Humboldt's Cosmos (four volumes, 1846-59), and, in addition to numerous contributions to scientific periodicals, published many important works.

The Lunar crate Faye is named in his honor.

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