# Category:18th-century French mathematicians

## Pages in category "18th-century French mathematicians"

The following 76 pages are in this category, out of 76 total. This list may not reflect recent changes (learn more).

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## Pages in category "18th-century French mathematicians"

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The following 76 pages are in this category, out of 76 total. This list may not reflect recent changes (learn more).

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1. Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon – Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was a French naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopédiste. His works influenced the two generations of naturalists, including Jean-Baptiste Lamarck and Georges Cuvier. It has been said that Truly, Buffon was the father of all thought in natural history in the half of the 18th century. Buffon held the position of intendant at the Jardin du Roi, Georges was named after his mother’s uncle Georges Blaisot, the tax-farmer of the Duke of Savoy for all of Sicily. In 1714 Blaisot died childless, leaving a fortune to his seven-year-old godson. Benjamin Leclerc then purchased an estate containing the village of Buffon. Georges attended the Jesuit College of Godrans in Dijon from the age of ten onwards, from 1723–1726 he then studied law in Dijon, the prerequisite for continuing the family tradition in civil service. In 1728 Georges left Dijon to study mathematics and medicine at the University of Angers in France, in 1732 after the death of his mother and before the impending remarriage of his father, Georges left Kingston and returned to Dijon to secure his inheritance. Having added de Buffon to his name while traveling with the Duke, he repurchased the village of Buffon, with a fortune of about 80000 livres Buffon set himself up in Paris to pursue science, at first primarily mathematics and mechanics, and the increase of his fortune. In 1732 he moved to Paris, where he made the acquaintance of Voltaire, in 1734 he was admitted to the French Academy of Sciences. During this period he corresponded with the Swiss mathematician Gabriel Cramer and his protector Maurepas had asked the Academy of Sciences to do research on wood for the construction of ships in 1733. Soon afterward, Buffon began a study, performing some of the most comprehensive tests to date on the mechanical properties of wood. Included were a series of tests to compare the properties of small specimens with those of large members, in 1739 he was appointed head of the Parisian Jardin du Roi with the help of Maurepas, he held this position to the end of his life. Buffon was instrumental in transforming the Jardin du Roi into a research center. He also enlarged it, arranging the purchase of adjoining plots of land, thanks to his talent as a writer, he was invited to join Pariss second great academy, the Académie française in 1753. In his Discours sur le style, pronounced before the Académie française, he said, Writing well consists of thinking, feeling and expressing well, of clarity of mind, soul, the style is the man himself. Unfortunately for him, Buffons reputation as a literary stylist also gave ammunition to his detractors, The mathematician Jean le Rond DAlembert, for example, called him the great phrase-monger. In 1752 Buffon married Marie-Françoise de Saint-Belin-Malain, the daughter of an noble family from Burgundy

2. Joseph Fourier – The Fourier transform and Fouriers law are also named in his honour. Fourier is also credited with the discovery of the greenhouse effect. Fourier was born at Auxerre, the son of a tailor and he was orphaned at age nine. Fourier was recommended to the Bishop of Auxerre, and through this introduction, the commissions in the scientific corps of the army were reserved for those of good birth, and being thus ineligible, he accepted a military lectureship on mathematics. He took a prominent part in his own district in promoting the French Revolution and he was imprisoned briefly during the Terror but in 1795 was appointed to the École Normale, and subsequently succeeded Joseph-Louis Lagrange at the École Polytechnique. Fourier accompanied Napoleon Bonaparte on his Egyptian expedition in 1798, as scientific adviser, cut off from France by the English fleet, he organized the workshops on which the French army had to rely for their munitions of war. He also contributed several papers to the Egyptian Institute which Napoleon founded at Cairo. After the British victories and the capitulation of the French under General Menou in 1801, in 1801, Napoleon appointed Fourier Prefect of the Department of Isère in Grenoble, where he oversaw road construction and other projects. However, Fourier had previously returned home from the Napoleon expedition to Egypt to resume his academic post as professor at École Polytechnique when Napoleon decided otherwise in his remark. The Prefect of the Department of Isère having recently died, I would like to express my confidence in citizen Fourier by appointing him to this place, hence being faithful to Napoleon, he took the office of Prefect. It was while at Grenoble that he began to experiment on the propagation of heat and he presented his paper On the Propagation of Heat in Solid Bodies to the Paris Institute on December 21,1807. He also contributed to the monumental Description de lÉgypte, Fourier moved to England in 1816. Later, he returned to France, and in 1822 succeeded Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre as Permanent Secretary of the French Academy of Sciences, in 1830, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. In 1830, his health began to take its toll, Fourier had already experienced, in Egypt and Grenoble. At Paris, it was impossible to be mistaken with respect to the cause of the frequent suffocations which he experienced. A fall, however, which he sustained on the 4th of May 1830, while descending a flight of stairs, shortly after this event, he died in his bed on 16 May 1830. His name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower, a bronze statue was erected in Auxerre in 1849, but it was melted down for armaments during World War II. Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble is named after him and this book was translated, with editorial corrections, into English 56 years later by Freeman

3. Pierre-Simon Laplace – Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace was an influential French scholar whose work was important to the development of mathematics, statistics, physics and astronomy. He summarized and extended the work of his predecessors in his five-volume Mécanique Céleste and this work translated the geometric study of classical mechanics to one based on calculus, opening up a broader range of problems. In statistics, the Bayesian interpretation of probability was developed mainly by Laplace, Laplace formulated Laplaces equation, and pioneered the Laplace transform which appears in many branches of mathematical physics, a field that he took a leading role in forming. The Laplacian differential operator, widely used in mathematics, is named after him. Laplace is remembered as one of the greatest scientists of all time, sometimes referred to as the French Newton or Newton of France, he has been described as possessing a phenomenal natural mathematical faculty superior to that of any of his contemporaries. Laplace became a count of the Empire in 1806 and was named a marquis in 1817, Laplace was born in Beaumont-en-Auge, Normandy on 23 March 1749, a village four miles west of Pont lEveque in Normandy. According to W. W. Rouse Ball, His father, Pierre de Laplace and his great-uncle, Maitre Oliver de Laplace, had held the title of Chirurgien Royal. It would seem that from a pupil he became an usher in the school at Beaumont, however, Karl Pearson is scathing about the inaccuracies in Rouse Balls account and states, Indeed Caen was probably in Laplaces day the most intellectually active of all the towns of Normandy. It was here that Laplace was educated and was provisionally a professor and it was here he wrote his first paper published in the Mélanges of the Royal Society of Turin, Tome iv. 1766–1769, at least two years before he went at 22 or 23 to Paris in 1771, thus before he was 20 he was in touch with Lagrange in Turin. He did not go to Paris a raw self-taught country lad with only a peasant background, the École Militaire of Beaumont did not replace the old school until 1776. His parents were from comfortable families and his father was Pierre Laplace, and his mother was Marie-Anne Sochon. The Laplace family was involved in agriculture until at least 1750, Pierre Simon Laplace attended a school in the village run at a Benedictine priory, his father intending that he be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church. At sixteen, to further his fathers intention, he was sent to the University of Caen to read theology, at the university, he was mentored by two enthusiastic teachers of mathematics, Christophe Gadbled and Pierre Le Canu, who awoke his zeal for the subject. Here Laplaces brilliance as a mathematician was recognised and while still at Caen he wrote a memoir Sur le Calcul integral aux differences infiniment petites et aux differences finies. About this time, recognizing that he had no vocation for the priesthood, in this connection reference may perhaps be made to the statement, which has appeared in some notices of him, that he broke altogether with the church and became an atheist. Laplace did not graduate in theology but left for Paris with a letter of introduction from Le Canu to Jean le Rond dAlembert who at time was supreme in scientific circles. According to his great-great-grandson, dAlembert received him rather poorly, and to get rid of him gave him a mathematics book

4. Charles Marie de La Condamine – Charles Marie de La Condamine was a French explorer, geographer, and mathematician. He spent ten years in present-day Ecuador measuring the length of a degree latitude at the equator, furthermore he was a contributor to the Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers. Charles Marie de La Condamine was born in Paris as a son of parents, Charles de La Condamine. He studied at the Collège Louis-le-Grand where he was trained in humanities as well as in mathematics, after finishing his studies, he enlisted in the army and fought in the war against Spain. After returning from the war, he acquainted with scientific circles in Paris. On 12 December 1730 he became a member of the Académie des Sciences and was appointed Assistant Chemist at the Academy, the next year he sailed with the Levant Company to Constantinople, where he stayed five months. After returning to Paris, La Condamine submitted in November 1732 a paper to the Academy entitled Mathematical and Physical Observations made during a Visit of the Levant in 1731 and 1732. Three years later he joined an expedition to present-day Ecuador which had the aim of testing a hypothesis of Isaac Newton, Newton had posited that the Earth is not a perfect sphere, but bulges around the equator and is flattened at the poles. Newtons opinion had raised a controversy among French scientists. On 16 May 1735, La Condamine sailed from La Rochelle accompanied by Godin, Bouguer, after stopovers in Martinique, Saint-Domingue, and Cartagena, they came to Panama where they crossed the continent. Finally the expedition arrived at the Pacific port of Manta, La Condamines associations with his colleagues were unhappy. He joined the group again on 4 June 1736 in the city of Quito, La Condamine is credited with introducing samples of rubber to the Académie Royale des Sciences of France in 1736. In 1751, he presented a paper by François Fresneau to the Académie which described many of the properties of rubber and this has been referred to as the first scientific paper on rubber. The scientists spent a month performing triangulation measurements in the Yaruqui plains — from 3 October to 3 November 1736 —, after they had come back to Quito, they found that subsidies expected from Paris had not arrived. La Condamine, who had taken precautions and had made a deposit on a bank in Lima and he prolonged this journey somewhat to study the cinchona tree with its medicinally active bark, the tree being hardly known in Europe. After returning to Quito on 20 June 1737, he found that Godin refused to disclose his results, the two men continued with their length measurements in the mountainous and inaccessible region close to Quito. When in December 1741 Bouguer detected an error in a calculation of La Condamines, however, working separately, the two completed their project in May 1743. Insufficient funds prevented La Condamine from returning to France directly, thus La Condamine chose to return by way of the Amazon River, a route which is longer and more dangerous

5. Adrien-Marie Legendre – Adrien-Marie Legendre was a French mathematician. Legendre made numerous contributions to mathematics, well-known and important concepts such as the Legendre polynomials and Legendre transformation are named after him. Adrien-Marie Legendre was born in Paris on 18 September 1752 to a wealthy family and he received his education at the Collège Mazarin in Paris, and defended his thesis in physics and mathematics in 1770. He taught at the École Militaire in Paris from 1775 to 1780, at the same time, he was associated with the Bureau des Longitudes. In 1782, the Berlin Academy awarded Legendre a prize for his treatise on projectiles in resistant media and this treatise also brought him to the attention of Lagrange. The Académie des Sciences made Legendre an adjoint member in 1783, in 1789 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society. He assisted with the Anglo-French Survey to calculate the distance between the Paris Observatory and the Royal Greenwich Observatory by means of trigonometry. To this end in 1787 he visited Dover and London together with Dominique, comte de Cassini, the three also visited William Herschel, the discoverer of the planet Uranus. Legendre lost his fortune in 1793 during the French Revolution. That year, he also married Marguerite-Claudine Couhin, who helped him put his affairs in order, in 1795 Legendre became one of six members of the mathematics section of the reconstituted Académie des Sciences, renamed the Institut National des Sciences et des Arts. Later, in 1803, Napoleon reorganized the Institut National, and his pension was partially reinstated with the change in government in 1828. In 1831 he was made an officer of the Légion dHonneur, Legendre died in Paris on 10 January 1833, after a long and painful illness, and Legendres widow carefully preserved his belongings to memorialize him. Upon her death in 1856, she was buried next to her husband in the village of Auteuil, where the couple had lived, Legendres name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower. Today, the term least squares method is used as a translation from the French méthode des moindres carrés. Around 1811 he named the gamma function and introduced the symbol Γ normalizing it to Γ = n, in 1830 he gave a proof of Fermats last theorem for exponent n =5, which was also proven by Lejeune Dirichlet in 1828. In number theory, he conjectured the quadratic reciprocity law, subsequently proved by Gauss, in connection to this and he also did pioneering work on the distribution of primes, and on the application of analysis to number theory. His 1798 conjecture of the prime number theorem was proved by Hadamard. He is known for the Legendre transformation, which is used to go from the Lagrangian to the Hamiltonian formulation of classical mechanics, in thermodynamics it is also used to obtain the enthalpy and the Helmholtz and Gibbs energies from the internal energy

6. Pierre Louis Maupertuis – Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis was a French mathematician, philosopher and man of letters. He became the Director of the Académie des Sciences, and the first President of the Prussian Academy of Science, Maupertuis made an expedition to Lapland to determine the shape of the Earth. He is often credited with having invented the principle of least action and his work in natural history is interesting in relation to modern science, since he touched on aspects of heredity and the struggle for life. Maupertuis was born at Saint-Malo, France, to a wealthy family of merchant-corsairs. His father, Renė, had involved in a number of enterprises that were central to the monarchy so that he thrived socially and politically. The son was educated in mathematics by a tutor, Nicolas Guisnée. In 1723 he was admitted to the Académie des Sciences and his early mathematical work revolved around the vis viva controversy, for which Maupertuis developed and extended the work of Isaac Newton and argued against the waning Cartesian mechanics. In the 1730s, the shape of the Earth became a flashpoint in the battle among rival systems of mechanics, Maupertuis, based on his exposition of Newton predicted that the Earth should be oblate, while his rival Jacques Cassini measured it astronomically to be prolate. In 1736 Maupertuis acted as chief of the French Geodesic Mission sent by King Louis XV to Lapland to measure the length of a degree of arc of the meridian and his results, which he published in a book detailing his procedures, essentially settled the controversy in his favor. The book included a narrative of the expedition, and an account of the Käymäjärvi Inscriptions. On his return home he became a member of almost all the societies of Europe. He also expanded into the realm, anonymously publishing a book that was part popular science, part philosophy. In 1740 Maupertuis went to Berlin at the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia, and took part in the Battle of Mollwitz, where he was taken prisoner by the Austrians. On his release he returned to Berlin, and thence to Paris, where he was elected director of the Academy of Sciences in 1742, and in the following year was admitted into the Académie française. His position became extremely awkward with the outbreak of the Seven Years War between his country and his patrons, and his reputation suffered in both Paris and Berlin. Finding his health declining, he retired in 1757 to the south of France, but went in 1758 to Basel, Maupertuis difficult disposition involved him in constant quarrels, of which his controversies with Samuel König and Voltaire during the latter part of his life are examples. The brilliance of much of what he did was undermined by his tendency to leave work unfinished and it was the insight of genius that led him to least-action principle, but a lack of intellectual energy or rigour that prevented his giving it the mathematical foundation that Lagrange would provide. He reveals remarkable powers of perception in heredity, in understanding the mechanism by which developed, even in immunology

7. Marquis de Condorcet – Unlike many of his contemporaries, he advocated a liberal economy, free and equal public instruction, constitutionalism, and equal rights for women and people of all races. His ideas and writings were said to embody the ideals of the Age of Enlightenment and rationalism and he died a mysterious death in prison after a period of flight from French Revolutionary authorities. Condorcet was born in Ribemont, and descended from the ancient family of Caritat, fatherless at a young age, he was raised by his devoutly religious mother. He was educated at the Jesuit College in Reims and at the Collège de Navarre in Paris, where he showed his intellectual ability. When he was sixteen, his analytical abilities gained the praise of Jean le Rond dAlembert and Alexis Clairaut, soon, from 1765 to 1774, he focused on science. In 1765, he published his first work on mathematics entitled Essai sur le calcul intégral and he would go on to publish more papers, and on 25 February 1769, he was elected to the Académie royale des Sciences. In 1772, he published another paper on integral calculus, soon after, he met Jacques Turgot, a French economist, and the two became friends. Turgot was to be an administrator under King Louis XV in 1772, Condorcet worked with Leonhard Euler and Benjamin Franklin. In 1774, Condorcet was appointed general of the Paris mint by Turgot. From this point on, Condorcet shifted his focus from the purely mathematical to philosophy, in the following years, he took up the defense of human rights in general, and of womens and Blacks rights in particular. He supported the ideals embodied by the newly formed United States, in 1776, Turgot was dismissed as Controller General. Consequently, Condorcet submitted his resignation as Inspector General of the Monnaie, but the request was refused, Condorcet later wrote Vie de M. Turgot, a biography which spoke fondly of Turgot and advocated Turgots economic theories. In 1785, Condorcet wrote an essay on the application of analysis of the probability of decisions made on a majority vote, the paper also outlines a generic Condorcet method, designed to simulate pair-wise elections between all candidates in an election. He disagreed strongly with the method of aggregating preferences put forth by Jean-Charles de Borda. Condorcet was one of the first to apply mathematics in the social sciences. In 1781, Condorcet wrote a pamphlet, Reflections on Negro Slavery, in 1786, Condorcet worked on ideas for the differential and integral calculus, giving a new treatment of infinitesimals – a work which was never printed. In 1789, he published Vie de Voltaire, which agreed with Voltaire in his opposition to the Church, in 1791, Condorcet along with Sophie de Grouchy, Thomas Paine, Etienne Dumont, Jacques-Pierre Brissot, and Achilles Duchastellet published a brief journal titled Le Républicain. Its main goal being the promotion of republicanism and the rejection of establishing a constitutional monarchy, the theme being that any sort of monarchy is a threat to freedom no matter who is leading, which emphasized that liberty is freedom from domination

8. Jean-Baptiste Biot – Jean-Baptiste Biot was a French physicist, astronomer, and mathematician who established the reality of meteorites, made an early balloon flight, and studied the polarization of light. The mineral biotite was named in his honor, Jean-Baptiste Biot was born in Paris on 21 April 1774 the son of Joseph Biot, a treasury official. He was educated at Lyceum Louis-le-Grand and École Polytechnique in 1794, Biot served in the artillery before he was appointed professor of mathematics at Beauvais in 1797. He later went on to become a professor of physics at the Collège de France around 1800, in 1804 Biot was on board for the first scientific hot-air balloon ride with Gay-Lussac. They reached a height of 7016 metres, quite dangerous without supplementary oxygen, Biot was also a member of the Legion of Honor, he was elected chevalier in 1814 and commander in 1849. In addition, Biot received the Rumford Medal in 1840, awarded by the Royal Society in the field of thermal or optical properties of matter. In 1850 Jean-Baptiste Biot published in the Journal des savants a 7-page memoir from his recollections of the period of the late 1790s, Jean-Baptiste Biot had a single son, Édouard Constant Biot, an engineer and Sinologist, born in 1803. Edouard died in 1850 and it was thanks to the extraordinary efforts of his father that the second half of Edouards last book. It had been left in manuscript, unfinished, to this day, Biots translation remains the only translation into a Western language of this book. He died in Paris on 3 February 1862, Jean-Baptiste Biot made many contributions to the scientific community in his lifetime – most notably in optics, magnetism, and astronomy. The Biot–Savart law in magnetism is named after Biot and his colleague Félix Savart for their work in 1820, in 1803 Biot was sent by the Académie française to report back on 3000 meteorites that fell on L’aigle, France. He found that the meteorites, called stones at the time, were from outer space, with his report, Biot helped support Ernst Florens Friedrich Chladnis argument that meteorites were debris from space, which he had published in 1794. Prior to Biots thorough investigation of the meteorites that fell near lAigle, France in 1803, there were anecdotal tales of unusual rocks found on the ground after fireballs had been seen in the sky, but such stories were often dismissed as fantasy. Serious debate concerning the unusual rocks began in 1794 when German physicist Chladni published a book claiming that rocks had an extraterrestrial origin. Only after Biot was able to analyze the rocks at lAigle was it accepted that the fireballs seen in the sky were meteors falling through the atmosphere. Since Biots time, analysis of meteorites has resulted in measurements of the chemical composition of the solar system. The composition and position of meteors in the system have also given astronomers clues as to how the solar system formed. In 1812, Biot turned his attention to the study of optics, prior to the 19th century, light was believed to consist of discrete packets called corpuscles

9. Jean-Charles de Borda – Jean-Charles, chevalier de Borda was a French mathematician, physicist, political scientist, and sailor. Borda was born in the city of Dax to Jean‐Antoine de Borda, in 1756, Borda wrote Mémoire sur le mouvement des projectiles, a product of his work as a military engineer. For that, he was elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 1764, Borda was a mariner and a scientist, spending time in the Caribbean testing out advances in chronometers. Between 1777 and 1778, he participated in the American Revolutionary War, in 1781, he was put in charge of several vessels in the French Navy. In 1782, he was captured by the English, and was returned to France shortly after and he returned as an engineer in the French Navy, making improvements to waterwheels and pumps. In 1770, Borda formulated a ranked voting system that is referred to as the Borda count. The Borda count is in use today in some institutions, competitions. The Borda count has also served as a basis for other such as the Quota Borda system. Another of his contributions is his construction of the standard metre, as an instrument maker, he improved the reflecting circle and the repeating circle, the latter used to measure the meridian arc from Dunkirk to Barcelona by Delambre and Méchain. This required the calculation of trigonometric tables and logarithms corresponding to the new size of the degree, the tables of logarithms of sines, secants, and tangents were also required for the purposes of navigation. The division of the degree into hundredths was accompanied by the division of the day into 10 hours of 100 minutes, the Republican Calendar was abolished by Napoleon in 1806, but the 400-degree circle lived on as the Gradian. Five French ships were named Borda in his honour, the crater Borda on the Moon is named after him. Asteroide 175726 has been called Borda in his honour and his name is one of the 72 names inscribed on the Eiffel Tower. Cape Borda on the northwest coast of Kangaroo Island in South Australia is named in his honour, Île Borda was the name given to Kangaroo Island in his honour by Nicholas Baudin. Borda–Carnot equation OConnor, John J. Robertson, Edmund F, jean Charles de Borda, MacTutor History of Mathematics archive, University of St Andrews