Lot #196
Augustin-Jean Fresnel Autograph Letter Signed

This lot has closed

Estimate: $3000+


French civil engineer and physicist (1788-1827) whose research in optics led to the almost unanimous acceptance of the wave theory of light. Rare ALS in French, signed “Fresnel,” one page both sides, 7.75 x 10, January 15, 1827. Letter to the Prefect of the Vendée regarding a letter of December 14th addressed to the Director General of Engineering in which the Prefect had reminded the Director General of the authorization of the delivery of a lightning rod and the addition of a fourth reflector to the lighthouse at Sables, to which the Director General had subsequently replied to that the Secretary of the Commission of the Lighthouses had to agree with the Chief Engineer of Vendee for the installation to be made.

Fresnel states that he regrets the delay which the matter has suffered and attempts to justify his position, informing the Prefect that, in another letter from the Director General, he did not at all invite Fresnel to authorize the simple installation of a fourth reflector, and that the matter would have been dealt with during his last inspection tour of the west coast in autumn 1825. He remarks (translated): "I have talked to Mr. Richer about all the details relative to the amelioration of the lighthouse at Sables. We had agreed that one of the spare reflectors would be added to the lighting machine and lit as soon as the Director General would have allowed it."

He further comments: "If the phrase in the sentence contained in the letter he sent you has made Mr. Richer suppose that he had to wait for my instructions before installing a reflector which position and direction have been automatically indicated by its position then he should have written to me and not let a year go by without profiting from the authorization that had already been granted by the Director General." Fresnel also states that he "would never have suspected that the fourth reflector that had been requested with so much insistence and that was immediately available was not yet installed" and that the lightning rod, that should have been constructed in Paris, was sent to Mr. Richer on 12th March the previous year and the remittance was also announced by letter on the same day, adding that he does not recall if receipt of the lightning rod was confirmed "but I would have thought if he hadn't received it he would have informed me." In fine condition, with light creasing. Fresnel is known for inventing the compact Fresnel lens for lighthouses, which has been called 'the invention that saved a million ships.'

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts, Ft. Animation
  • Dates: #620 - Ended November 10, 2021

This item is Pre-Certified by PSA/DNA
Buy a third-party letter of authenticity for (inquire for price)

*This item has been pre-certified by a trusted third-party authentication service, and by placing a bid on this item, you agree to accept the opinion of this authentication service. If you wish to have an opinion rendered by a different authenticator of your choosing, you must do so prior to your placing of any bid. RR Auction is not responsible for differing opinions submitted 30 days after the date of the sale.