navigation of the Seine, and the boring of the artesian wells at Grenelle.
In the year 1830 also he was appointed director of the Observatory, and as a member of the chamber of deputies he was able to obtain grants of money for rebuilding it in part, and for the addition of magnificent instruments. In the same year, too, he was chosen perpetual secretary of the Academy of Sciences, in room of J. B. J. Fourier. Arago threw his whole soul into its service, and by his faculty of making friends he gained at once for it and for himself a world-wide reputation. As perpetual secretary it fell to him to pronounce historical éloges on deceased members; and for this duty his rapidity and facility of thought, his happy piquancy of style, and his extensive knowledge peculiarly adapted him.
In 1834 he again visited England, to attend the meeting of the British Association at Edinburgh. From this time till 1848 he led a life of comparative quiet—not the quiet of inactivity, however, for his incessant labours within the Academy and the Observatory produced a multitude of contributions to all departments of physical science,—but on the fall of Louis Philippe he left his laboratory to join in forming the provisional government. He was entrusted with the discharge of two important functions, that had never before been united in one person, viz. the ministry of war and of marine; and in the latter capacity he effected some salutary reforms, such as the improvement of rations in the navy and the abolition of flogging. He also abolished political oaths of all kinds, and, against an array of moneyed interests, succeeded in procuring the abolition of negro slavery in the French colonies.
In the beginning of May 1852, when the government of Louis Napoleon required an oath of allegiance from all its functionaries, Arago peremptorily refused, and sent in his resignation of his post as astronomer at the Bureau des Longitudes. This, however, the prince president, to his credit, declined to accept, and made “an exception in favour of a savant whose works had thrown lustre on France, and whose existence his government would regret to embitter.” But the tenure of office thus granted did not prove of long duration. Arago was now on his death-bed, under a complication of diseases, induced, no doubt, by the hardships and labours of his earlier years. In the summer of 1853 he was advised by his physicians to try the effect of his native air, and he accordingly set out for the eastern Pyrenees. But the change was unavailing, and after a lingering illness, in which he suffered first from diabetes, then from Bright’s disease, complicated by dropsy, he died in Paris on the 2nd of October 1853.
Arago’s fame as an experimenter and discoverer rests mainly on his contributions to magnetism and still more to optics. He found that a magnetic needle, made to oscillate over nonferruginous surfaces, such as water, glass, copper, &c., falls more rapidly in the extent of its oscillations according as it is more or less approached to the surface. This discovery, which gained him the Copley medal of the Royal Society in 1825, was followed by another, that a rotating plate of copper tends to communicate its motion to a magnetic needle suspended over it (“magnetism of rotation”). Arago is also fairly entitled to be regarded as having proved the long-suspected connexion between the aurora borealis and the variations of the magnetic elements.
In optics we owe to him not only important optical discoveries of his own, but the credit of stimulating the genius of A. J. Fresnel, with whose history, as well as with that of E. L. Malus and of Thomas Young, this part of his life is closely interwoven. Shortly after the beginning of the 19th century the labours of these three philosophers were shaping the modern doctrine of the undulatory theory of light. Fresnel’s arguments in favour of that theory found little favour with Laplace, Poisson and Biot, the champions of the emission theory; but they were ardently espoused by Humboldt and by Arago, who had been appointed by the Academy to report on the paper. This was the foundation of an intimate friendship between Arago and Fresnel, and of a determination to carry on together further researches in this subject, which led to the enunciation of the fundamental laws of the polarization of light known by their names (see Polarization). As a result of this work Arago constructed a polariscope, which he used for some interesting observations on the polarization of the light of the sky. To him is also due the discovery of the power of rotatory polarization exhibited by quartz, and last of all, among his many contributions to the support of the undulatory hypothesis, comes the experimentum crucis which he proposed to carry out for comparing directly the velocity of light in air and in water or glass. On the emission theory the velocity should be accelerated by an increase of density in the medium; on the wave theory, it should be retarded. In 1838 he communicated to the Academy the details of his apparatus, which utilized the revolving mirrors employed by Sir C. Wheatstone in 1835 for measuring the velocity of the electric discharge; but owing to the great care required in the carrying out of the project, and to the interruption to his labours caused by the revolution of 1848, it was the spring of 1850 before he was ready to put his idea to the test; and then his eyesight suddenly gave way. Before his death, however, the retardation of light in denser media was demonstrated by the experiments of H. L. Fizeau and J. B. L. Foucault, which, with improvements in detail, were based on the plan proposed by him.
ARAGON, or Arragon (in Span. Aragón), a captaincy-general, and formerly a kingdom of Spain; bounded on the N. by the Pyrenees, which separate it from France, on the E. by Catalonia and Valencia, S. by Valencia, and W. by the two Castiles and Navarre. Pop. (1900) 912,711; area, 18,294 sq. m. Aragon was divided in 1833 into the provinces of Huesca, Teruel and Saragossa; an account of its modern condition is therefore given under these names, which have not, however, superseded the older designation in popular usage.
Aragon consists of a central plain, edged by mountain ranges. On the south, east and west, these ranges, though wild and rugged, are of no great elevation, but on the north the Pyrenees attain their greatest altitude in the peaks of Aneto (11,168 ft.) and Monte Perdido (10,998 ft.)—also known as Las Tres Sorores, and, in French, as Mont Perdu. The central pass over the Pyrenees is the Port de Canfranc, on the line between Saragossa and Pau. Aragon is divided by the river Ebro (q.v.), which flows through it in a south-easterly direction, into two nearly equal parts, known as Trans-ibero and Cis-ibero. The Ebro is the principal river, and receives from the north, in its passage through the province, the Arba, the Gallego and the united waters of the Cinca, Esera, Noguera Ribagorzana, Noguera Pallaresa and Segre—the last three belonging to Catalonia. From the south it receives the Jalon and Jiloca (or Xalon and Xiloca) and the Guadalope. The Imperial Canal of Aragon, which was begun by the emperor Charles V. in 1529, but remained unfinished for nearly two hundred years, extends from Tudela to El Burgo de Ebro, a distance of 80 m.; it has a depth of 9 ft., and an average breadth of 69, and is navigable for vessels of about 80 tons. The Royal Canal of Tauste, which lies along the north side of the Ebro, was cut for purposes of irrigation, and gives fertility to the district. Two leagues north-north-east of Albarracin is the remarkable fountain called Cella, 3700 ft. above the