AMPÉRE André Marie—a mathematician, chemist, and philosopher, b. January 22, 1775, in Poleymieux near Lyons, d. June 10, 1836 in Marseilles.
Ampére received a solid education in mathematics and the natural sciences under his father’s direction. In 1801 he became a professor in Bourg-en-Bresse. In 1803 he received a nomination to Lyons because of his work Considérations sur la théorie mathématique du jeu (Ly 1802) concerning probability calculus. In 1804 he formed a scientific circle with a group of friends—Societé Chrétienne—that sought a deeper understanding of the rational foundations of faith. In 1804 he became an assistant professor at the École Polytechnique in Paris and carried on a voluminous correspondence with well-known philosophers such as Main de Biran, Destutt de Tracy, and Carbanis. In 1808 he became an inspector general at the university. In 1809 he became a professor of mathematical analysis and mechanics at the École Polytechnique. In 1814 he became a member of the French Academy of Applied Knowledge and received the order of the Legion of Honor. In 1819 he began to lecture philosophy at the University of Paris and in 1820 became a substitute professor of astronomer there. In 1824 he was appointed as professor of general physics in the Collège de France.
Ampére’s works are as follows: Sur les preuves historiques de la divinité du christianisme (P 1810, contains a defense of Christianity’s supernatural character); Theorie mathématique des phénomèmes électrodynamiques, uniquement déduite de l’expérience (P 1826, 18832—an exemplary treatise in physics and mathematics) written after seven years of experiments on a discovery by the Danish physicist Ørsted; the two-volume Essai sur la philosophie des sciences, ou exposition analytique d’une classification naturelle de toutes les connaisances humaines (I–II, P 1834–1843; 18562) which contains many philosophical views. Ampére is better known as the creator of the foundations of electrodynamics. He demonstrated that magnetism is dependent upon electricity (called Ampére’s first and second laws). In order to explain magnetic phenomena he formulated a new hypothesis on the molecular construction of physical things and this anticipated the theory of the electron. He also developed a theory of electricity (the unit of the intensity of an electrical current is named after him), and developed a theory of gases. He attempted to build an artificial magnet (called a solenoid) and a telegraph.
Under the influence of Buffon’s Natural History he became interested in taxonomy, and under the influence of A. L. Thomas he became interested in metaphysics.
As a philosopher Ampére worked at the classification of the sciences and the classification of psychological phenomena, and as a scholar he worked at the classification of chemical elements. Ampére was inspired by Cartesian dualism and divided the sciences into cosmological and nomological. The details of his classification of the sciences, which also included applied sciences such as medicine and horticulture, are today only of historical interest. Ampére accepted the central idea of Main de Biran’s voluntaristic idealism that man discovers his true nature in a process of introspective experience. In his theory of the association of ideas Ampére listed two instances: “commémoration” (ordinary reminiscence) when two ideas are unchanged when they are associated, and “concrétion” when both ideas are fused together. The main difference in views between Ampére and M. de Biran concerns knowledge of the external world. Ampé disagreed with M. de Biran (who followed Kant in rejecting the possibility of reaching things in themselves), and under the influence of Newton and Locke stated that we can know the relations between things in themselves. We can know these “noumenal relations” (similar to Locke’s primary qualities) when spatial, temporal, and qualitative relations are separated from qualitative content (Locke’s secondary qualities) of sensory experience. Ampére was one of the first Frenchmen acquainted with Kant’s philosophy but did not accept Kant’s theory of time, space, and causality.
Ampére made a critical analysis of science which showed the activity of the knowing subject and the need for hypotheses in science. A. Cournot and C. Bernard in the nineteenth century continued his analysis of science.
In the question of the relation between science and religion Ampére states that there is no contradiction between them. It is possible to know in a natural way that God exists, by contemplating the perfection, order, and harmony of the universe.
B. Lorenz, Die Philosophie André-Marie Ampére, B 1908; Correspondance du grand Ampére, I–III, P 1936–1943; M. Lewandowski, André-Marie Ampére. La science et le foi, P 1936; Z. T. Plisowska, Entuzjasta nauki i Boga Andrzej Maria Ampére [Enthusiast of science and God, Andrew Maria Ampére], Pz 1937; L. de Broglie, Continu et discontinu en physique moderne, P 1941, 241–266; R. Ferrier, De Descartes à Ampére, ou progrès vers l’unité rationelle, Bâle 1949, P 19532; R. A. R. Tricker, Early Electrodynamics. The First Law of Circulation, Oc 1965; M. Čapek, EPh I 93–94; L. P. Williams, Dictionary of Scientific Biography, NY 1970, I 139–147; M. Gliozzi, A. Pasquinelli, EF (1982) I 234.
Zenon E. Roskal, Jacek Banaś