Talk:Augustin-Jean Fresnel

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Good articleAugustin-Jean Fresnel has been listed as one of the Natural sciences good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
Article milestones
June 8, 2020Good article nomineeListed
On this day...Facts from this article were featured on Wikipedia's Main Page in the "On this day..." column on July 29, 2018, July 29, 2020, and July 29, 2022.

Hyphenation of given names?[edit]

 – See "Early life" section of article.
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Hi there,

the name of this man is written without a dash (no dash in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, not in several german books, not in the french wikipedia ...) -- Schusch 20:47, 20 Apr 2004 (UTC)

I don't think there's any consistency in whether compound first names like this (formerly very common in French) are written with a dash or not. In general even French sources sometimes write them with, sometimes without. -- Curps 15:39, 23 Jul 2004 (UTC)

Link suggestions[edit]

 Apparently resolved.

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An automated Wikipedia link suggester has some possible wiki link suggestions for the Augustin-Jean_Fresnel article, and they have been placed on this page for your convenience.
Tip: Some people find it helpful if these suggestions are shown on this talk page, rather than on another page. To do this, just add {{User:LinkBot/suggestions/Augustin-Jean_Fresnel}} to this page. — LinkBot 00:59, 18 Dec 2004 (UTC)

Done. Thincat 15:37, 20 October 2005 (UTC)Reply[reply]


 Apparently resolved.

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I'm not natively French but I'm pretty sure that I've heard french and most other people (apart from Americans) pronounce his surname as /freˈnɛl/ i.e. freh-nell. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:06, 21 May 2010 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Not only have I only ever heard the lens name pronounced as "freh-nel", but the IPA symbol /ɛ/ used for his name is consistent with this, and not consistent with "ay" (which would be /e/). I think this is just a minor error in the eye-dialect representation, and I'll change it if I don't see arguments otherwise within a day or so here. Sharkford (talk) 14:32, 25 April 2016 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Major expansion?[edit]

 Done: See later sections below.

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Please warn me here if you are working on a major expansion or rewrite of this article, so that we don't tread on each other's toes.

(I submit that this article is short by comparison with other "level-4 vital" articles on physicists, including the featured articles on Chadwick, Fermi, Feynman, Gibbs, Kepler, Oppenheimer, and Teller.)

2001:44B8:4186:4000:30F0:C7A6:72AD:AC7E (talk) 04:02, 26 July 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I added a section on Fresnel's bright spot with citations. Geoffrey.landis (talk) 15:48, 20 September 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Thanks. I confirm that the "major expansion" is still in progress. And I do mean "major".
2001:44B8:4108:D305:5DEB:33D8:F60E:2E47 (talk) 14:22, 26 September 2017 (UTC).Reply[reply]
You should expect the proposed "major expansion" to be uploaded by Christmas.
2001:44B8:4108:D300:98F3:C39A:88B3:304A (talk) 01:13, 25 November 2017 (UTC).Reply[reply]


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The career section says "He received only scant public recognition during his lifetime for his labours in the cause of optical science" but the detail section says that " in 1819 he received the prize of the Académie des Sciences at Paris, in 1823 he was unanimously elected a member of the French Academy of Science, in 1825 he became a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, and in 1827 the Royal Society of London awarded him the Rumford Medal. Even in the quotation given, he talks about "All the compliments that I have received from Arago, Laplace and Biot...". I don't see support for the claim of "scant public recognition", so I am deleting this sentence. Geoffrey.landis (talk) 15:48, 20 September 2017 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Major expansion — Phase 1[edit]

Since proposing the "major expansion", I have opened an eponymous account, which I shall use from now on.

"Phase 1" of the expansion has been uploaded. I envisage that subsequent "phases" will involve further checking against sources, with little change in length but (presumably) improvements in clarity and accuracy. The diagram of the Fresnel rhomb also needs work... [DONE — see below].

I would have liked to do more of that "checking against sources" before uploading; but I am about to be interrupted (again), and I was not willing to delay the upload for the duration.

Warning: There are inconsistencies between secondary sources (see the notes). To correct any factual error or omission, you need more than a single secondary source.

Disclosure: I don't know French. Wherever I have been forced to consult French sources, I have also been forced to use online translators.

Quirks of the author: This article generally uses American spellings and punctuation, but avoids two extreme Americanisms, namely (i) "meter" for a unit of measure, and (ii) placing a stop before a closing quotation mark when the actual quote ends with a weaker stop or no stop.

Many thanks to the many past contributors of illustrations. I wrote all of the text but did not upload a single image [yet — see below].

Gavin R Putland (talk) 12:14, 10 December 2017 (UTC), Melbourne, Australia [updated Gavin R Putland (talk) 09:01, 31 July 2018 (UTC)].Reply[reply]

Major expansion — completed?[edit]

My edit of 09:13, 23 December 2017, may incidentally be taken as the end of "Phase 2" (checking against Grattan-Guinness, 1990). Subsequent "phases" were indicated on the article's history page. I eventually uploaded one image of my own, namely the corrected diagram of the Fresnel rhomb (compare the original).

Having finished "Phase 8", I do not envisage making further changes except to fix bugs.

Gavin R Putland (talk) 11:25, 20 January 2018 (UTC).Reply[reply]


What a nicely done article. So complete and informative. Congrats to all who worked on it.

Ratings out of date[edit]

This article has not been re-rated since the "major expansion" that began in late 2017. — Gavin R Putland (talk) 04:43, 26 July 2018 (UTC).Reply[reply]

Nice work on the expansion. Article ratings are rarely updated. It probably could be bumped up to B-class but you should consider nominating it for GA status. Hrodvarsson (talk) 20:05, 26 July 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Look before you leap![edit]

N.B.: The "Historical context..." subsection of this article promises: "In this subsection, optical phenomena that were unexplained or whose explanations were disputed are named in bold type."

For better or worse, this article uses italics rather than quotation marks when referring to words as words (both options being permitted by the MoS). However, I concede that I may have been overzealous in using italics for emphasis.

I belatedly notice that the {{xref}} template is available for consistent formatting of internal references. It uses italics.

Off-topic, I thank the several editors who reverted vandalism on 29 July 2018.

Gavin R Putland (talk) 12:44, 30 July 2018 (UTC).Reply[reply]

French back vowels[edit]

The French pronunciation of his first name is given as [ɔɡystɛ̃]. I've always understood written au to represent /o/, not /ɔ/. (I wonder how many minimal pairs there are; paume vs pomme comes to mind.) Also, why slashes (signifying broad transcription) for English but brackets (narrow) for French? —Tamfang (talk) 22:01, 28 August 2018 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Sharkford: Do you have any opinion(s)? I notice that the first suggestion would be consistent with the article on Cauchy. — Gavin R Putland (talk) 22:50, 28 August 2018 (UTC).Reply[reply]
Tamfang's first suggestion has been implemented for the time being. — Gavin R Putland (talk) 10:51, 6 September 2018 (UTC).Reply[reply]

WP:BIO Assessment Request Completed--Time for GAN[edit]

@Gavin R Putland: I am terribly sorry for the long wait for assessment, though I was not working in that area until recently. The backlog has now been totally cleared, including this article. Others have suggested here and on your talk page that this article may be ready for GAN, and I fully agree. BIO only assesses up to B, but this article is far beyond that level. It looks like a very solid GAN, and I doubt that any terribly substantial work would need to be done to get this through. Gavin, I really hope that you or someone else who will be dedicated to working on this article will submit it. Thank you for your hard work so far. Happy editing! Prometheus720 (talk) 17:28, 25 June 2019 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Prometheus720: Thank you. No need for the apology, because (i) I acknowledge the shortage of assessors, and (ii) I haven't been pushing the process recently, partly because I keep thinking of references which I perhaps ought to check before submitting a GA nomination, and which I expect to read in the course of other projects. — Gavin R Putland (talk) 07:22, 26 June 2019 (UTC).Reply[reply]

@Gavin R Putland and Prometheus720: Outstanding work, indeed! Time for GAN, perhaps? fgnievinski (talk) 05:00, 7 February 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Fgnievinski, Prometheus720, Hrodvarsson, and Coffeeandcrumbs: The size of the article and the shortage of reviewers make me hesitant, but... OK, at the suggestion of all four of you (at various times), I have submitted a GAN. Thanks for the compliments. — Gavin R Putland (talk) 07:28, 9 February 2020 (UTC).Reply[reply]
@Gavin R Putland, Prometheus720, and Fgnievinski: Just throwing in an opinion here, I feel like this article is two or three potential GAs rather than one. It's about double the size recommendations at WP:SIZESPLIT and WP:LENGTH, with various issues described at those pages. If someone were to tag the article with {{Split}}, that would be reason to quick-fail a GAN. I also feel that it puts a lot of work on a reviewer to thoroughly check an article of this size. I would suggest that editors put a hold on the nomination and consider splitting the article along natural lines, perhaps moving all non-biographical material to separate articles. Or consider Isaac Newton which has separate sub-articles at Early life of Isaac Newton, Later life of Isaac Newton, Writing of Principia Mathematica, Isaac Newton in popular culture, Religious views of Isaac Newton, and Isaac Newton's occult studies, and non-biographical articles at Newtonianism, Newton disc, Newton polygon, Newton's reflector, Newtonian telescope, Newton scale, etc. – Reidgreg (talk) 13:51, 16 May 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Reidgreg, Fgnievinski, Prometheus720, Hrodvarsson, and Coffeeandcrumbs: Concerning the embarrassing length of this article, I have long harbored the ambition (but never been confident of getting the opportunity) to do the following:
  • Create an article on Chromatic polarization, with a History section, and devolve some material to it;
  • Rework the article on Birefringence, with a History section (which would need to cover the contributions of Bartholin, Huygens, Haüy, Wollaston, Malus, Laplace, Young, Brewster, and Biot), and devolve some material to it;
  • Expand the History section of the article on the Fresnel lens, including not only prior art and Fresnel's contributions, but also post-Fresnel developments (see Levitt 2013, Elton 2009, U.S. Lighthouse Soc.), so that the article on Fresnel can refer to that section for further information, instead of the other way around.
Furthermore, there are probably some parts of the text that should be relegated to the Notes section, which was created on 25 July 2019. (BTW, I still need to turn some more "References" into "Notes", or split them between Notes and References.)
Arguments against a larger-scale break-up include the following:
  • In the case of Fresnel, "moving all non-biographical material to separate articles" looks like an ill-posed problem (at least to me), because so little is known about him except in a scientific/technical context. In any account of the revival of the wave theory of light, Fresnel is the central character. In any biography of Fresnel, the revival of the wave theory of light is the main plot line. One cannot tell one story without telling most of the other.
  • The article as it stands is a unique resource. Sure, it's long, but maybe a tenth as long as Buchwald 1989 + Levitt 2013, and it contains some information that you won't find in either of those. The lack of such a resource drove me to create it. The size of the result (and of the slice of my life that went into it) may help to explain why more prudent authors had not created it before; but it's done now.
  • Concerning the need for such a "resource", you can't read the complete works of Fresnel in English, as you can with Newton. You can't even get a clean digitized text in the original language to put through Google Translate, as you can with Huygens. I am not aware any single book on Fresnel in English that attempts to cover both his fundamental research and his lighthouse work. I find all this odd because...
  • Concerning how many words the subject is worth, Fresnel was the second person in history to reconstruct a major branch of physics in a form that a modern physicist would still recognize. The first was Newton. The third was Maxwell. That seems to make him kind of a big deal. Oh, and he also saved lives on an industrial scale. Speaking of which...
  • Is the article a bit hagiographic? Yes, but when you write about someone of whom little is known except that he did great things and died young, you get hagiography. The raw material permits little else. If any unknown scandals lurk in the redacted passages of his letters, they remain, for the moment at least, unknown.
MRDA, I know, but... If the present article can't be a GA due to length, I'd rather have a unique resource that fails the GA test than lose that resource. — Gavin R Putland (talk) 15:54, 17 May 2020 (UTC).Reply[reply]
I hear you. I had similar motivations with the longest article I've written, trying to put together something comprehensive that didn't exist anywhere else. To me, the only real problem with the size is accessibility: readers using certain platforms may have difficult loading it and people using screen-readers may have difficulty navigating it. I'm aware of some GAs which exceed 10k words. Anyways, I respect your wishes on this and your perspective on the best way to present the information, and hope that you get a good GA reviewer. – Reidgreg (talk) 19:57, 17 May 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
Fresnel rhomb#History seems to be a good example of splitting Fresnel's biography by topic. fgnievinski (talk) 20:14, 17 May 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

GA Review[edit]

This review is transcluded from Talk:Augustin-Jean Fresnel/GA1. The edit link for this section can be used to add comments to the review.

Reviewer: Mike Christie (talk · contribs) 19:43, 7 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

I'll review this. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 19:43, 7 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

An extraordinary article. I have a couple of very minor quibbles:

  • the apparent implication that the aether was an elastic solid (!): I like it, but I think we have to drop the exclamation point as editorializing, which we're not supposed to do. If you can source an adjective for "implication" such as "remarkable" or "extraordinary", that would be fine, though I don't think it's necessary as you go into the details immediately following this.
  • but its latest assumption was expensive on credulity: do you perhaps mean "credibility"? I can make sense of the sentence either way but I think the latter would be more natural.

The good article criteria specify that compliance with the scientific citation guidelines is sufficient to pass, and this article does comply. However, there are a handful of paragraphs that do not finish with a citation, and I'd encourage you to look through them and see if any can easily be cited.

There's no question that this article meets, and easily exceeds, the good article criteria, and I will be promoting it as soon as I've finished writing this note. I want to add a couple of thoughts. First, I can see from the talk page discussion that the question of length has been raised. I agree with Reidgreg's opinion that it should be split, per summary style; and I can see that another GA reviewer might well have decided to fail it on the grounds of length, using 3 (b) as the reason to fail it. I've decided to ignore the problem on the grounds that the encyclopedia is better off with this as a GA. Having said that, I think splitting out sub-articles such as Fresnel's contributions to optics would make this more readable. Gavin, I see that in your response to Reidgreg you mention some scientific articles that you would like to create: what's your feeling about biographical sub-articles? I agree with your comment that it would make no sense to cut too much scientific material from the article; Fresnel's achievements make no sense without the scientific context, including the history of the problems he solved and the mathematics of the solutions. But there's no reason that we can't tell the story you tell here in more than one article.

My own background, in mathematics, with a little physics, enabled me to read the article and understand the topics, but not in enough detail to critique the scientific aspects of the article. In a GA review one sometimes has to take things on faith, and here I'm doing just that. But imagine another reader, with less mathematical background, who would like to get a sense of the importance of Fresnel's achievements. This article won't do that for them; they won't be able to penetrate it and will have to skim. If you move some material to subsidiary articles (which might allow expansion of the text, rather than cutting) you can provide summaries here that are more conceptual than mathematical, and which will be more easily read by lay readers.

If you were to do that there seems little doubt to me that you could the article (and perhaps the sub-articles) to featured status, which would probably lead to the article being on the front page of Wikipedia for a day, if you're motivated by that. I don't think the article in its current state could be featured; the length would be an insurmountable obstacle.

Anyway, whatever you decide to do with it, congratulations on a very fine article -- clear, concise writing, good organization, and a fascinating topic. I've read a fair number of biographical articles about 18th and 19th century mathematicians and physicists, but had never read about Fresnel: I found this a very engaging and interesting read. Thank you for the work you've put into it. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 02:18, 8 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Mike Christie: [Coming back to this after the interruption...] Thank you.
I have removed my own exclamation mark and left the "editorializing" to Thomas Young, quoted in the reference. I leave others to judge whether the word "credulity" now makes more sense.
As time permits, I shall check for paragraphs that don't end in citations, to see whether this is a sign of more editorializing that should be removed or relegated.
I suppose would be feasible (although I can't seem to find a good precedent...) to edit this article into a parent article, retaining the present title, and a sub-article with a title like "Contributions of Augustin-Jean Fresnel to physical optics" (leaving the lighthouse work in the parent article). An argument in favor would be that the parent article could give, as you say, "a sense of the importance of Fresnel's achievements" while being "more conceptual", "more easily read", and shorter. OTOH, an argument in favor of expanding the "History" sections of scientific articles is that it more clearly legitimizes the mentioning of other characters. In the long term, one could perhaps do both. (In the short-to-medium term, I am immersed in other projects.) — Gavin R Putland (talk) 06:52, 9 June 2020 (UTC).Reply[reply]
Currently the size guideline says that articles over 100kb of readable prose (as opposed to raw wikitext) "almost certainly" should be split. This article is 109kb, so I think eventually, perhaps years from now, other editors with the time and energy to work on this will want to split it, if you decide not to. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 09:15, 9 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

Images that need to be removed or have fair use rationales added[edit]

Gavin, I just realized that the one thing I didn't check in the GA criteria was the image licensing. Looking through now, I see four photographs that were taken in France and which included statuary or architectural elements. France doesn't have freedom of panorama, so these need fair use rationales. The four are:

You can either remove them from the article or add a rationale. Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 12:56, 8 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]

@Mike Christie: Surely the lack of freedom of panorama is an issue only if the primary work (e.g. sculpture) is still subject to copyright. That won't be the case with Fresnel's grave, or the bust by d'Angers (who died in 1856). Nor will it be the case with the Broglie monument (inaugurated 1884) or the nearby bas-relief of Mérimée (apparently erected 1895) unless a copyright owner died in the last 100 years of war-related causes, or in the last 70 years in other circumstances. In neither case do I know the identity of the artist(s). "Abundance of caution" suggests commenting out the first two items on the above list. — Gavin R Putland (talk) 16:16, 8 June 2020 (UTC).Reply[reply]
It doesn't take long to get past my comfort zone with image rules, so I'm going to ask someone I know is expert. Nikki, Gavin's response sounds correct to me; can you confirm? Mike Christie (talk - contribs - library) 16:19, 8 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
If the works pictured are in the public domain due to their age we should just add tags saying so to the image description pages, with no need for a fair-use rationale in that case. Works "published" (publicly erected) before 1925 will be in the public domain in the US; if the French copyright is uncertain, we should be able to upload them locally, but commons:Template:PD-EU-no_author_disclosure or another tag may apply. Nikkimaria (talk) 20:35, 8 June 2020 (UTC)Reply[reply]
@Mike Christie and Nikkimaria: In each case, I have no evidence of publication of the creator's name; I don't have evidence of non-publication. I cannot fill all the obligatory fields of the fair-use rationale, and the proposition that "Monuments are meant to be seen!" does not seem to be a recognized rationale. So, for the time being, I have commented out the two images, namely File:Augustin Fresnel buste Broglie.jpg and File:Léonor Mérimée.jpg. — Gavin R Putland (talk) 04:36, 9 June 2020 (UTC).Reply[reply]