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Henri Mineur

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7 March 1899

Lille, France

7 May 1954

Paris, France

Henri Mineur applied for admission to École Normale Supérieur in Paris in 1917. He was placed first but because of the war he decided to join the army. This did not hold him up for long for he was awarded his degree in 1921.

He had already started research in mathematics by 1920 and after graduating he taught mathematics in a school in Dusseldorf while he completed his thesis. He was awarded his doctorate in 1924 for a thesis on functional equations in which he established an addition theorem for Fuchsian functions. The work of his thesis was published in 1925 and, three years later, he published a paper on the differential calculus.

Mineur had always been interested in astronomy and, in 1925, he left teaching to take up a post in the Paris Observatory. He contributed to many areas of astronomy and mathematics including celestial mechanics, analytic mechanics, statistics and numerical analysis.

In 1938 Mineur wrote an important work on the least square method, Technique de la méthodes des moindres carrés. His most important work on numerical methods was Technique de calcul numérique (1952).

In astronomy Mineur made many significant discoveries. He discovered that the speeds of the stars varied according to their distance from the plane of the galaxy. He also discovered the retrograde rotation of the system of globular clusters around the galaxy.

Another significant discovery was to realise that there was a error in the accepted period-luminosity law for Cepheid variables. Since the whole scale of the Universe is based on distances determined using this relationship, this discovery doubled the size of the Universe in the sense that all objects in the Universe where now shown to be twice as far away as previously thought. This had a huge impact for cosmology .

Mineur was the main force behind the setting up of the Institute d'Astrophysique in Paris in 1936 and he was its first director, a post he held for the rest of his life.

During the years 1940-44 Mineur was an active member of the French Resistance risking his life on many occasions.

Mineur had five years of bad health with heart and liver problems before his death at the early age of 55.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland