Joseph Fourier the mobile health French connection

Posted on July 20, 2010  /  0 Comments

Business meeting in the Chamrousse

I was in Lyon, France presenting our mHealth paper – Real-Time Biosurveillance pilot in India and Sri Lanka – at the IEEE-HealthCom conference, which took place 01-03, July 2010 (click to view the slides). I spent an extra day in France to travel down to Grenoble, accompanied by my friend and research partner – Artur Dubrawski – an ex-scholar from Grenoble,  in search of a Joseph Fourier’s statue for a photo opportunity. Why?

Jean Baptist Joseph Fourier (21 Mar 1768 to 16 May 1830) was a French mathematician and physicist best known for the “Fourier series” – a way of writing a function as a sum of frequency components; i.e. a sum of sin waves of different frequencies. The mathematics of Fourier series under-pin much of digital audio, including mobile phones. I wonder if he ever envisioned that his mathematics would eventually benefit the health sector. Perhaps his days in Egypt may have given some hindsight to the evolution of mobile communications and the discipline now coined as mHealth.

It is not surprising that the French gave birth to many renown mathematician like Fourier, Laplace, Galois because of the way they interpret numbers. Most of the world has a distinct word for each number, for example we say “eighty” (80) and the French say “quatre-vingts”, which directly translates to four times twenty (4 x 20); we say “ninety” and the French say “quatre-vingt-dix”, translates to four times twenty and ten (4 x 20 + 10). I was thinking of teaching my daughter to first count Fibonnaci instead of decimals, to see where that may guide her life line.

Unfortunately my desire for a photo opportunity was not fulfilled due various logistical reasons but the Cheese, Wine, and Chamrousse (Alps) were an astonishing experience.

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