Paris – See The Earth Turn

There was no doubt that the earth rotated around a central axis. But there was no way to demonstrate that it actually did. No concrete proof.

Not until January 3, 1851 that is, when Leon Foucault found that long sought proof with the help of an iron ball swinging from a 67 meter wire, suspended first from the dome of the Paris Observatory and a week later from the Pantheon in Paris.

His life presents nothing worth telling
except the discoveries he made
~ Editor, ‘Collected Works of Leon Foucault’

Copy of original Foucault Pendulum – Pantheon, Paris

The basic premise of his experiment was that a rotating object once set in motion would retain its plane of swing with respect to the fixed reference frame, in this case the point of suspension. In simpler terms, the pendulum will only align itself to one plane. Therefore any change in the orientation at ground level betrayed the motion of the earth!! It was that simple!

To comprehend how FAST the earth spins, check out this traveler video of the original Foucault pendulum that was moved to the Musee des Arts et Metiers.

This remarkable man who was bad at math and dropped out of medical school was credited with several more discoveries in his very short life! Here is a list.

And below is a trailer of Foucaults picture book biography that I borrowed the title from

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

57 thoughts on “Paris – See The Earth Turn

  1. Outstanding…you took me back to my childhood. We had the good fortune to live near Washington, DC and the Smithsonian Instution. The highlight of many visits was the Foucault Pendulum (removed in 1998), mesmerizing and fascinating.

  2. Beautiful post and a fascinating subject. I first saw a model of Foucault’s Pendulum in the main marble staircase of the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia as a child. I can still remember looking over the railing from an upper floor, watching the swinging movement of the ball below. Mesmerizing!

  3. An issue that has fascinated (and still fascinating) man …
    Time … and the inability to “stop” the moment!
    But what you do know skillfully with your beautiful photos!
    Thank you very much, serenity :-)claudine

  4. Very great and insteresting post, Madhu… πŸ˜‰

    “Musee des Arts et Metiers” I have visited it and it’s indeed a visit worth… πŸ˜‰

    1. Me too Gilly πŸ™‚ I envy the way the grandchildren are being taught these subjects today! Makes me want to go back to school!

    1. And I have no doubt you will find a connection, no create a connection, with some everyday occurrence in your life, like only you can Kate! Thank you for the comment πŸ™‚

  5. Great subject and well posted! It reminded me the one we saw in Chicago some years ago. Thanks, Madhu!

  6. The name Foucault is known to me, but I never have been visiting in the Pantheon. Again Your post reminded me that there are “hidden” places worth for visit in Paris. Thank You.

  7. I love hearing about people who some thought of as failures, and yet they are actually brilliant. We shouldn’t discount anyone. This reminds me that I have a book on this guy I should read.

  8. Very cool. I just saw a Foucault Pendulum in Columbus OHIO at Center for Science and Industry and it knocks off a metal ball which illustrates the physics so perfectly.
    I found a video of it which shows the motion of the pendulum. Enjoyed your post today. Fascinating physics.

  9. This is most fascinating, Madhu. I’ve never seen Foucault’s Pendulum before. Thanks for the link. That Gyroscope is amazing. He was a brilliant man, in spite of being bad at math. There’s hope for us all. πŸ™‚

  10. Spectacular demo and experiment! Great education and thanks for sharing,

    The video by added rutheh is impressive too.

    Thank you.

    1. Thank you Mona. I have been following your adventures in Shanghai although I might not have stopped to comment too often πŸ™‚

    1. Oh Judy that is very kind of you πŸ™‚ Comments like yours makes my work here worthwhile…thank you so much!

    1. Isn’t it? I thought there weren’t any in India, but Wiki has a list that says there are six, all in the North!! None in South East Asia surprisingly! Thanks Island traveler.

    1. I do too πŸ™‚ I took a few days off last week and am still catching up with blog reading and posting!! Have left the ‘responding to comments’ for this weekend…will hopefully get through the 10 or so posts that I have allowed to pile up! Nice to meet you too πŸ˜€

      1. I noticed after I got a few posts further down! πŸ™‚ I did a report on Peru in school. I would so love to go there someday. That’s a lot of catching up! Good luck!

    1. I want to check out the Musee des Arts et Metiers this time. Was hoping to get some better shots as well, but your stunning captures are discouraging me from even trying πŸ™‚

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