Nollet, Jean-Antoine (1700-1770)

French physicist.

Joined the Société des Arts, an organization that sought to interest artisans in science (1728); met Dufay and Réaumur through this society and assisted them in a dizzying range of scientific investigations (1731-35). Traveled with Dufay to London, where he met Desaguliers, and Holland, where he met Musschenbroek. Manufactured scientific apparatus and gave a popular cours de physique. Published an expanded syllabus of his course, Leçons de physique (6 vols., Paris, 1743-48), which became a popular textbook. Elected to Académie des Sciences (1739); director (1761-62). Garnered numerous public and academic appointments, including scientific tutor to the Dauphin (1744), professor of experimental physics at the ancient Collège de Navarre (1753), professor in the École d’Artillerie et du Génie (1757), and Maître de Physique et d’Histoire Naturelle des Enfants de France (1758).

Developed theory of simultaneous effluence and affluence of electrical particles (late 1740s). Franklin’s theory of electricity, set forth in Experiments and Observations (London, 1751), conflicted with Nollet’s, and Buffon spurred competition between them; the slighted Nollet replied to Franklin in Lettres sur l’électricité (Paris, 1753). Franklin decided not to reply to Nollet’s attack, but the offense rankled for thirty years.

Born to a poor peasant family at Pimprez. Educated for a clerical career at the Collège de Clermont-en-Beauvais and at Paris (M.A., theology, 1724). Deacon (1728).