Pierre Victor Auger
Pierre Victor Auger was a French physicist
A physicist is a scientist who studies or practices physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole...

, born in Paris. He worked in the fields of atomic physics
Atomic physics
Atomic physics is the field of physics that studies atoms as an isolated system of electrons and an atomic nucleus. It is primarily concerned with the arrangement of electrons around the nucleus and...

, nuclear physics
Nuclear physics
Nuclear physics is the field of physics that studies the building blocks and interactions of atomic nuclei. The most commonly known applications of nuclear physics are nuclear power generation and nuclear weapons technology, but the research has provided application in many fields, including those...

, and cosmic ray
Cosmic ray
Cosmic rays are energetic charged subatomic particles, originating from outer space. They may produce secondary particles that penetrate the Earth's atmosphere and surface. The term ray is historical as cosmic rays were thought to be electromagnetic radiation...


The chemistry professor Victor Auger was his father. Pierre Auger was a student at the École normale supérieure
École normale supérieure
An école normale supérieure or ENS is a type of publicly funded higher education in France. A portion of the student body who are French civil servants are called Normaliens....

 in Paris from 1919 to 1922, the year when he passed the agrégation
In France, the agrégation is a civil service competitive examination for some positions in the public education system. The laureates are known as agrégés...

 of physics. He joined then the physical chemistry laboratory of the faculté des sciences of the University of Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

 under the direction of Jean Perrin to work there on the photoelectric effect. He obtained in 1926 from the University of Paris his doctorate in physics. In 1927, he was named assistant to the faculté des sciences of Paris and, at the same time, adjoint chief of service to l'Institut de biologie physico-chimique. Chief of work to faculty in 1934 and general secretary of the annual tables of the constants in 1936, he was named university lecturer in physics to the faculty on the first of November 1937. He was charged with, until 1940, the course on the experimental bases of the quantum theory within the chair of theoretical physics and astrophysics. He was also adjoint director of the laboratory of physical chemistry. He occupied then the chair of quantum physics and relativity of the faculté des sciences of Paris.

At the end of WWII, he was named director of higher education from 1945 to 1948, which permitted him to introduce the first chair of genetics at the Sorbonne, conferred upon Boris Ephrussi
Boris Ephrussi
Boris Ephrussi , Professor of Genetics at the University of Paris, was a Russo-French geneticist from the Ephrussi family.His father, Samuil Osipovich Ephrussi, was a chemical engineer; his grandfather, Joseph Ephrusi , was the founder of a banking dynasty in Kishinev. He published two papers in...


The process where Auger electron
Auger electron
The Auger effect is a physical phenomenon in which the transition of an electron in an atom filling in an inner-shell vacancy causes the emission of another electron. When a core electron is removed, leaving a vacancy, an electron from a higher energy level may fall into the vacancy, resulting in...

s are emitted from atom
The atom is a basic unit of matter that consists of a dense central nucleus surrounded by a cloud of negatively charged electrons. The atomic nucleus contains a mix of positively charged protons and electrically neutral neutrons...

s is used in Auger electron spectroscopy
Auger electron spectroscopy
Auger electron spectroscopy is a common analytical technique used specifically in the study of surfaces and, more generally, in the area of materials science...

 to study the elements on the surface of materials. This method was named after him, despite the fact that Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner
Lise Meitner FRS was an Austrian-born, later Swedish, physicist who worked on radioactivity and nuclear physics. Meitner was part of the team that discovered nuclear fission, an achievement for which her colleague Otto Hahn was awarded the Nobel Prize...

 discovered the process a few years before in 1922.

In his work with cosmic rays, he found that the cosmic radiation events were coincident in time meaning that they were associated with a single event, an air shower
Air shower (physics)
An air shower is an extensive cascade of ionized particles and electromagnetic radiation produced in the atmosphere when a primary cosmic ray enters the atmosphere...

. He estimated that the energy of the incoming particle that creates large air showers must be at least 1015 electronvolt
In physics, the electron volt is a unit of energy equal to approximately joule . By definition, it is equal to the amount of kinetic energy gained by a single unbound electron when it accelerates through an electric potential difference of one volt...

s (eV) = 106 particles of 108 eV (critical energy in air) and a factor of ten for energy loss from traversing the atmosphere (Auger et al., 1939).

He was instrumental in creating both CERN
The European Organization for Nuclear Research , known as CERN , is an international organization whose purpose is to operate the world's largest particle physics laboratory, which is situated in the northwest suburbs of Geneva on the Franco–Swiss border...

 and ESRO
The European Space Research Organization was an international organisation founded by 10 European nations with the intention of jointly pursuing scientific research in space. It was founded in 1964...


He was president of the Centre International de calcul (Rome). From 1948 to 1959, he directed at UNESCO
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization is a specialized agency of the United Nations...

 the department of mathematical and natural sciences.

He was elected a member of the Académie des sciences in 1977.

He hosted a broadcast of popularization of exacting science on Friday evening on France Culture
France Culture
France Culture is a French public radio channel and part of Radio France. Its programming encompasses a wide variety of features on historical, philosophical, sociopolitical, and scientific themes , as well as literary readings, radio plays, and experimental productions...

 in the years from 1970 to 1980, entitled Les Grandes Avenues de la science moderne.

The world's largest cosmic ray detector, the Pierre Auger Observatory
Pierre Auger Observatory
The Pierre Auger Observatory is an international cosmic ray observatory designed to detect ultra-high-energy cosmic rays: single sub-atomic particles with energies beyond 1020 eV...

, is named after him.

External links

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