LAPLACE

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LAPLACE, Pierre Simon, marquis cle, a celebrated mathematician and astronomer, born 1749, was the son of a farmer in Normandy, went to Paris, where he soon distinguished himself by his knowledge of analysis and the highest branches of geometry, in which, however, Lagrange was superior to him. Laplace was chosen a member of the academy, of sciences, one of the 40 of the French academy, and member of the bureau des longitudes. In 1796 appeared his famous work Exposition du Systems du Monde (fifth edition, Paris, 4to). Laplace did not remain a stranger to politics, and, after the 18th of Brurnaire, was made minister of the interior by the first consul. But, from the conversations of Napoleon with Las Cases {Memorial), it is evident that Napoleon was not satisfied with his minister. "A geometrician of the first rank," says the emperor, "he did not reach mediocrity as a statesman. From the first, the consuls became sensible that they had made a mistake in his appointment. He never viewed any subject in its true light; he was always occupied with subtilties; his notions were all problematic, and he carried the spirit of the infinitely small into the administration." After six weeks, therefore, Lucien Bonaparte received his portfolio. Napoleon made Laplace a senator, vicechancellor and chancellor of the senate, and member of the legion of honor. In a report to the senate in 1805, Laplace proved the necessity of restoring the Gregorian calendar, and abolishing that of the republic. His principal works are his Traite de Mecanique celeste. (1799 1805, four volumes, 4to.); his Theorie du Mouvemcnt des Planetes; JEssai sur les Probability; and Theorie analytique des Probabilites. In 1814, Laplace voted for the abdication of Napoleon, and the king created him a peer, with the title of marquis. During the hundred days, he did not appear at the Tuileries. He died March 5, 1827. His Mecanique celeste has been translated, with a commentary, by doctor Bowditch of Boston (Hilliard, Gray, & Co., 1830,4to., first volume.) The amount of matter in the commentary is much greater than that in the text, and the calculations are so happily elucidated, that a student moderately versed in mathematics may follow the great astronomer with pleasure to his beautiful results.*