Charles Augustin de Coulomb
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Coulomb, Charles Augustin de
Born June 14, 1736, in Angouleme; died Aug. 23, 1806, in Paris. French physicist; member of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1781). For nine years after his graduation from secondary school, Coulomb worked in the corps of military engineers on the island of Martinique. When he returned to France in 1772, he devoted himself to scientific studies. His works dealt with engineering mechanics (statics of structures and the theory of windmills). He studied the twisting of hairs, silk threads (1777), and metallic fibers (1784) and formulated the laws of torsion; he invented a torsion balance that he later used to measure electric and magnetic forces of interaction. In 1781 he described experiments on sliding and rolling friction and formulated the laws of dry friction. Between 1785 and 1789 he published seven volumes of memoirs in which he gave the law of interaction for electric charges and magnetic poles (Coulomb's law), showed that electric charges always lie on the surface of a conductor, and introduced the concepts of magnetic moment and polarization of charges. Coulomb's experimental works have had great value in the creation of a theory for electromagnetic phenomena. The unit quantity of electric charge, the coulomb, was named for him.