Augustin Jean Fresnel, French physicist, 1825.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Stipple engraving by Ambroise Tardieu after an original of 1825. Fresnel (1788-1827) served as a government engineer in Paris during most of his career. Applying mathematical analysis, his work helped establish the wave theory of light. He was also distinguished in applied optics, inventing the compound lighthouse lens and a prism, known as Fresnel's rhomb which produced circularly polarized light. With Arago he rediscovered the interference of polarized light and the theory of the diffraction of light.