Julien Péridier

julian péridier

Julien Péridier

Julien Péridier, director-founder of the observatory at Le Houga, Gers, France, died on April 19, 1967 in his 86th year. He was a life-time member of all the major astronomical societies of Europe and America. An electrical engineer by training, with degrees from Ecole Centrale de Paris, and Ecole Supérieure d'Electricité, Mr. Péridier made his career in the public transportation industry in the Paris area and in the south of France. In recognition of his work, the French Government made him an Officer of the Legion of Honour. His life-long interest and Violin d'Ingres, however, was astronomy at first as an active amateur (he observed the solar eclipse of 1905 in Spain, contributed to the Variable Star Sections of the French and British Astronomical Associations before World War I) and later as the founder and active director of his private observatory established in 1933 at Le Houga in the South-West of France.

The main instruments were an excellent 8-in. visual and photographic f/13 double refractor with Couder optics and a 12-in. Calver reflector. The two domes with attached darkroom, office, and living quarters were on a hillock at the edge of the village. The observatory was later supplemented by a fine library and a small laboratory and workshop, a darkroom with microphotometer and other auxiliary equipment set up in a basement of Mr. Péridier's country house 'Les Arousettes' in Le Houga. Here, for nearly 30 years, astronomical observations were made by young French astronomers and the main results published in several issues of the Annales and a score of Publications de l'observatoire du Houga which were exchanged with all major observatories of the world.

old peridier library

Old Peridier Library

The main topics of research at the Péridier Observatory were planetary physics, especially photometry, stellar photometry, variable stars; there was also some work on double stars, flare stars, and galaxies. In July 1959 Le Houga was selected as one of the stations for a Harvard Observatory expedition to observe the occultation of Regulus by Venus and excellent photoelectric observations of the fading phase were secured with the 8-in. refractor. The success of the mission due in no small part to the excellent facilities provided by Mr. Péridier encouraged Harvard director, D.H. Menzel, to continue the collaboration through a five-year NASA-supported programme of multicolour photoelectric photometry of the Moon and planets with the 12-in. reflector. This was the last major project carried out at the Péridier Observatory from 1961 to 1965. Results will be published by Harvard in the near future.

The author of this notice was most fortunate to become in his student days the close collaborator of Mr. Péridier and to work at his observatory in many occasions between 1939 and 1949 and again during the 1959 Harvard expedition. He and others who enjoyed Mr. Péridier's always generous hospitality and his keen scientific mind will remember him as a fine gentleman, a modest and cultured benefactor of astronomy and young astronomers. Mr. Péridier may well have been the last of the great private sponsors of astronomical research in the tradition of Lowell, Jarry-Douglas, and McMath. With a solid background in physics, mathematics, and engineering he kept up all his life with the progress of not only astronomy and astronomical techniques, but also of pure and applied physics, electrical engineering, and related subjects. He had a keen interest in most of the other physical and even biological sciences and in the history and philosophy of science. His astronomical and scientific library was always maintained up to date and professional astronomers would occasionally appeal to him for the loan of hard-to-get publications, in particular during the war.

Mr. Péridier had been deeply affected two years ago by the loss of his wife, née Adrienne Blanc, after more than 50 years of a happy marriage (they had no children) and he never recovered from the shock.

It is gratifying to report that in accord with Mr. Péridier's wishes, the equipment of his observatory and his astronomical library have been acquired by the University of Texas to assist in the development of the teaching and research facilities of the Department of Astronomy and the McDonald Observatory.

-- G. de Vaucouleurs (1918-1995)