Pierre-Simon Laplace: Biography & Quotes

Instructor: Usha Bhakuni

Usha has taught high school level Math and has master's degree in Finance

Pierre-Simon Laplace was a renowned French mathematician and astronomer. He is famously known as the French Newton. In this lesson, you will be taken through his biography and famous quotes.

Who was Pierre-Simon Laplace?

Pierre-Simon Laplace (1749-1827) was a prominent French mathematician and astronomer, known for his work regarding the stability of the solar system. He is famously known as the French Newton. He is also known for his contributions in the field of statistics, mostly in probability theory.

Pierre-Simon Laplace

Childhood and Early Life

Pierre-Simon Laplace was born on March 23, 1749, in Beaumont-en-Auge in Normandy, France. Born to a poor family, his neighbors provided financially for his education.

At the age of 16, his father sent him to Caen University to study theology, though he was mainly interested in mathematics. After three years at Caen, he left without graduating and moved to Paris where he worked as a mathematics professor at École Militaire. He assumed the role of professor at only 19 years old, and was recommended for the position by the renowned mathematician Jean le Rond d'Alembert.

Middle Life and Career

Laplace worked at École Militaire for seventeen years, and meanwhile conducted his research in the field of astronomy.

Laplace was elected a member of the French Academy of Sciences in 1773. Working for the Academy, he helped come up with standardized European weights and measures, making important contributions to what we know now as the metric system.

In 1774, he published a paper titled 'Memoir on the Probability of the Causes of Events,' an important paper in the field of statistics, and followed it with another important work in the field two years later. He also began his formal work on celestial mechanics and the stability of the solar system during this period.

From 1784 to 1787, he studied the attraction between spheroids, which became the mathematical foundation for further study of heat, magnetism, and electricity.

In March 1788, he married Marie-Charlotte de Courty de Romanges, a woman from Besançon. The couple had two children: a son, Charles-Émile, and a daughter, Sophie-Suzanne.

Laplace published his 'nebular hypothesis' in the book The System of the World in 1796. With this hypothesis, he envisioned the birth of the solar system from a contracting and cooling protosolar cloud, which he called the protosolar nebula.

He began working on celestial mechanics to understand the motion of the heavenly bodies in mathematical terms. Between 1799 and 1825, he published the five-volume work Celestial Mechanics.

Notably, Laplace also predicted the existence of black holes, imagining massive stars whose gravity is so great that light cannot escape from them.

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