Henri Bénard - Life and Career - Paris


In 1922, Bénard moved to the University of Paris, Sorbonne, as senior lecturer in physics. In 1926 he became a full professor, and was teaching introductory physics. In the 1920s he continued his work with the vortex streets, determining an experimental law for the frequency in terms of the velocity of the flow, the viscosity of the fluid, and the size of the obstacle; he claimed that his law contradicted the theoretical results of von Kármán. In this period, a priority dispute over the discovery of vortex shedding erupted between Bénard and von Kármán, detailed at length by Wesfried. Meanwhile, Bénard again revisited his work on thermal convection, claiming agreement between his results and the theory of Lord Rayleigh.

Bénard led conferences in 1927-1928 at the Sorbonne regarding alternating eddies and cellular eddies. In 1928 Bénard was elected President of the French Society of Physics (SFP), and in that position interacted with a number of important contemporaries such as Louis de Broglie, Paul Langevin, Dimitri Riabouchinsky, and Pierre Weiss. Benard had been an SFP member since 1897. One of Bénard's principal concerns at the SFP was to increase the membership of the society, in particular among engineers and technicians. By the end of his term, he had succeeded in raising the membership from 1222 to 1260: "It is a slow growth, but finally there is growth".

In 1929, the French Aeronautics Ministry established an Institute of Fluid Mechanics at the Sorbonne (headed by Henri Villat), and appointed Bénard to be the director of its Fluid Mechanics Laboratory and to the Chair of Experimental Fluid Mechanics. He gave the inaugural address for the laboratory in November. In December, Bénard received the Bordin Prize from the French Academy of Science, in honor of his work on eddies. The list of the prize committee members makes interesting reading: Appell, Painlevé, Lecornu, Hadamard, Goursat, Lebesgue, and Picard.

In 1935, Bénard was appointed head of the section on atmospheric convection of the Commission on Atmospheric Turbulence, organized by the French Air Ministry, and headed by Phillipe Wehrlé. Meanwhile, he had already been joined by a number of students: Duson Avsec, Michel Luntz, C. Woronetz, H. Journaud, Victor Volkovisky, Paul Schwarz, V. Romanovsky, and G. Sartory among others. These students studied thermal convection in various regimes, including electroconvection, surface tension-driven convection, etc. Bénard himself returned to the question of convection on the solar photosphere (solar granulation) in 1935.

In 1937, Bénard was placed in charge of teaching at the École Supérieure de l'Aéronautique. He and his student Avsec published a major review article of their work on thermal convection in 1938. Finally, on 29 March 1939, at the age of 64, "an unexpected death interrupted his scientific activity". The French Academy of Science awarded its Poncelet Prize that year to his widow, in honor of her late husband.

Read more about this topic:  Henri Bénard, Life and Career

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