Joseph Plateau (1801 - 1883)

Joseph Antoine Ferdinand Plateau is born in Brussels on the 14th of October 1801. After the death of his parents the lawyer Thirion, uncle of the children, becomes his guardian. Because Joseph is ill quite often, he spends a lot of time in the countryside, where he enjoys drawing and collecting butterflies. He also engages in "physique amusante" or recreational physics. He builds demonstration apparatus, organises séances and astonishes his audience with the originality of his experiments.


The battlefield of Waterloo.
Joseph Plateau (19 June 1815)

The death of mother and father so impresses Joseph that he becomes very ill. The doctor prescribes a stay in the countryside. On 18 June 1815 Joseph is in a small village near Waterloo: the cannon of the battlefield can be heard. Everyone flees to the forest of Soignies. All this does not seem to make a big impression on the boy. He continues to catch butterflies, visits the battlefield the next day and paints a watercolour there.

From 1817 till 1822 Joseph Plateau is a pupil at the "Atheneum" school in Brussels. One of his teachers (from 1819 till 1822) is Adolphe Quetelet (1796-1874). For the rest of his life, Joseph will have strong ties with and great affection for Quetelet, which results in a captivating correspondence. A. Quetelet is the founder of the revue"Correspondance mathématique et physique". Many of Plateau's most important papers appear therein..