Etienne Louis Malus

Bob Guenther

Throughout his life, Malus had a considerable impact on optics. Amazingly, his accomplishments were made in spite of many hardships and interruptions during his life. He overcame political intrigue, war, and the plague. A review of his life shows that Malus was no accidental contributor to optics. He conducted experiments that verified Huygens' theory of birefringence and was able to express the theory analytically. His work at that time was so highly received that in 1811 he was awarded the Rumford medal of the Royal Society (London), established in the early 1800s by the American-born Benjamin Thompson, Count Rumford. This award was presented to Malus even though France and England were in a war that led to the involvement of the United States in 1812.

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