Perrin, Jean Baptiste

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Perrin, Jean Baptiste

(zhäN bätēst` pĕrăN`), 1870–1942, French physicist. From 1910 to 1940 he was professor at the Univ. of Paris, and in 1941 he came to the United States. Perrin specialized in the Brownian movement of particles. For his work on the discontinuous structure of matter and for his discovery of the equilibrium of sedimentation (which permitted an accurate calculation of the size of atoms), he received the 1926 Nobel Prize in Physics. He is noted also for his work on X rays and cathode rays. His works include Atoms (1903, tr. 1923). His son, Francis Henri Perrin, 1901–92, became a director of the French atomic energy commission when it was established in 1946. In 1951, Perrin took over as the organization's high commissioner of atomic energy, following Frédéric Joliot-CurieJoliot-Curie
, French scientists who were husband and wife. Frédéric Joliot-Curie , 1900–1958, formerly Frédéric Joliot, and Irène Joliot-Curie , 1897–1956, daughter of Pierre and Marie Curie, were married in 1926.
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Perrin, Jean Baptiste


Born Sept. 30, 1870, in Lille; died Apr. 17, 1942, in New York. French physicist. Member of the Académie des Sciences in Paris (1923).

Perrin worked at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris after graduating from that institution in 1894. He joined the faculty of the University of Paris in 1898 and was a professor there from 1910 to 1940. In 1940, after the capitulation of France, he came to the USA.

Between 1895 and 1898, Perrin investigated cathode rays and X rays; he demonstrated that cathode rays are streams of charged particles. He did research on electrokinetic phenomena and in 1904 proposed a device for studying electroosmosis. Perrin’s work on Brownian motion provided experimental confirmation of the Einstein-Smoluchowski theory; it permitted him to obtain a value for Avogadro’s number that was in good agreement with values obtained by other methods and to prove conclusively the reality of molecules. Perrin also demonstrated the bimolecular structure of thin soap films. Together with his son Francis, he did research on fluorescence phenomena. Perrin was a popularizer of science, and his book Atoms (1913; Russian translation, 1924) has become a classic.

Perrin was an honorary member of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR (1929; corresponding member, 1924). He was awarded a Nobel Prize in 1926.


Oeuvres scientifiques. Paris, 1950.


Vavilov, S. I. “Pamiati Zhana Perrena.” Priroda, 1943, no. 3.
Ranc, A. Jean Perrin. Paris, 1945.
Lot, F. Jean Perrin. [Paris, 1963.] (Contains lists of works by and about Perrin.)