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Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis

Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (July 17, 1698 - July 27, 1759), French mathematician and astronomer, was born at Saint-Malo, France.

He is often credited with having invented the principle of least action.

When twenty years of age he entered the army, becoming lieutenant in a regiment of cavalry, and employing his leisure on mathematical studies. After five years he quitted the army and was admitted in 1723 a member of the French Academy of Sciences[?]. In 1728 he visited London, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1736 he acted as chief of the expedition sent by Louis XV into Lapland to measure the length of a degree of the meridian, and on his return home he became a member of almost all the scientific societies of Europe.

In 1740 Maupertuis went to Berlin on 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 Academy.

Returning to Berlin in 1744, at the desire of Frederick II, he was chosen president of the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1746. Finding his health declining, he repaired in 1757 to the south of France, but went in 1758 to Basel, where he died a year later. Maupertuis was unquestionably a man of considerable ability as a mathematician, but his restless, gloomy disposition involved him in constant quarrels, of which his controversies with König[?] and Voltaire during the latter part of his life furnish examples.

The following are his most important works:

  • Sur la figure de la terre (Paris, 1738)
  • Discours sur la parallaxe de la lune (Paris, 1741)
  • Discours sur la figure des astres (Paris, 1742)
  • Elements de la geographie (Paris, 1742)
  • Lettre sur la comete de 1742 (Paris, 1742)
  • Astronomic nautique (Paris, 1745 and 1746)
  • Venus physique (Paris, 1745)
  • Essai de cosmologie (Amsterdam, 1750).

His Œuvres were published in 1752 at Dresden and in 1756 at Lyons.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.

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