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Documents et études > ARAGO, EULOGY ON AMPÈRE., 1872.
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[Translated for the Smithsonian Institution]

GENTLEMEN: It is my duty today, in accordance with an article of the academic regulations dating 
back to 1666, and which during this long interval of time has always been faithfully executed, to 
bring before you the labors of one of our most illustrious associates, and at the same time to 
cursorily glance at his life. 

These biographical sketches have not always preserved the same characteristics. Before the judges 
of the eighteenth century, Fontenelle himself, the ingenious Fontenelle, ventured to refer so 
briefly to technical points that his eulogy on Newton occupies only about thirty pages in octavo. If 
you will open this master-piece of delicacy, elegance, and atticism, you will find the celebrated 
“Treatise on Optics” confined to a few lines, and the title of the “Universal Arithmetic” 
not even mentioned. In proportion as the sciences progress the ancient boundaries of the academic 
eulogies should be enlarged, and, in fact, we having at last reached a period when the crowds are 
largely pressing to expositions of the mathematical and natural sciences with which our vast lecture 
rooms daily resound, the secretaries of the academy have begun to feel that it is time to rid 
themselves of the restraints which their illustrious predecessors had imposed upon themselves, that 
henceforth they might here, at the public sittings, speak of the labors of their associates in the 
terms hereafter to be used by the historians of the sciences. This new course has already several 
times received your kind approbation. The idea of departing from it has never even suggested itself 
to my mind, as indeed, a little reflection would have reminded me, when M. Ampère was removed from 
our midst, of the impossibility of examining his works, and of making the analysis of his complete 
encyclopedia, without departing from the usual limits of our eulogies. I must acknowledge, too, that 
a close intimacy, an intimacy without a cloud for more than thirty years, has also contributed to 
extend this biography, and to enable me to give importance to certain details that one indifferent 
to him would have passed by unnoticed. If an excuse be necessary, gentlemen, I will give it to you 
in a line in which a great poet has defined friendship  

“The only passion of the soul in which excess is tolerated.”
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