1. He came from money.
Born into a prosperous family in the city of Lyon, France, on Jan. 20, 1775, Ampère’s father was a businessman; his mother the orphaned daughter of a silk merchant. When Ampère was 5-years-old, his father’s wealth allowed the family moved to a country estate about six miles from Lyon. This move would change the course of Ampère’s life.
2. No one made him study or do homework — ever.
Ampère’s father followed the education principles set forth by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a leader of the French Enlightenment who advocated no formal school lessons. This meant Ampère could do what he liked and learn about anything he wanted. Instead of slacking off like many kids would do, Ampère thrived in this environment, memorizing entire pages of an encyclopedia.
3. He was a whiz kid.
Despite his lack of formal education, when Ampère was just 13 years old, he submitted a paper on conic sections to the Academy of Lyon, but it was rejected. Did he give up? Nope. He worked harder than ever and convinced his father to take him to Lyon for calculus lessons. His father also took him to Lyon’s college to attend physics lectures, which inspired a passion for physics.
4. His life wasn’t all roses.
As the saying goes, money can’t buy everything, and Ampère found that out the hard way. In 1789, when he was 14, the French Revolution began. In 1792, his older sister died, and in 1793, revolutionaries guillotined his father. Living and studying at the family estate, Ampère escaped harm but was so distraught by his father’s death that he quit his studies for a year.
5. He was a tutor and a teacher.
When he was 22, Ampère began private tutoring in Lyon and apparently was darn good at it. So good, in fact, that he caught the attention of the city’s intellectuals. A few years later, he became a school teacher, and by 1804 he had relocated to Paris to tutor university-level classes at the École Polytechnique. Despite possessing no formal qualifications, Ampère became a full professor of mathematics in 1809.
6. He founded a scientific field.
In 1820, Ampère attended a demonstration of Hans Christian Oersted’s discovery that a flow of electric current in a wire could deflect a nearby magnetic compass needle. Intrigued by the demonstration, Ampère decided to pursue his own experiments. Less than a month later, he proved that parallel wires with currents flowing in the same direction attract each other while currents flowing in opposite directions repel each other. He named this new field electrodynamics (today we call it electromagnetics).
7. He achieved other remarkable scientific feats.
In addition to establishing Ampère’s law, an equation connecting the size of a magnetic field to the electric current that produces it, the scientific genius also proposed the existence of a particle now known as the electron. He also discovered the element fluorine and proposed that chemical elements should be grouped according to their properties — 53 years before Dmitri Mendeleev published his periodic table.
8. His son was a whiz kid too.
Ampère’s son, Jean-Jacques, was a renowned professor of linguistics, taught at the Sorbonne and Collège de France, and was a member of the exclusive French Academy (just like his dad). However, rumor has it father and son did not get along, and the two often fought.
9. He was disinterred.
On June 10, 1836, at the age of 61, Ampère died from pneumonia in the French city of Marseilles, where he was buried. Later, his remains were moved to the Montmartre Cemetery in Paris, the final resting place of many other notable people. Ampère’s son Jean-Jacques is buried next to him.
10. He is remembered on the Eiffel Tower.
Ampere is one of only 72 French scientists, engineers, and mathematicians whose names are engraved on the Eiffel Tower in recognition of their achievements.