Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre - Encyclopedia




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JEAN BAPTISTE JOSEPH DELAMBRE (1749-1822), French astronomer, was born at Amiens on the 19th of September 1 749. His college course, begun at Amiens under the abbe Jacques Delille, was finished in Paris, where he took a scholarship at the college of Plessis. Despite extreme penury, he then continued to study indefatigably ancient and modern languages, history and literature, finally turning his attention to mathematics and astronomy. In 1771 he became tutor to the son of M. d'Assy, receiver-general of finances; and while acting in this capacity, attended the lectures of J. J. Lalande, who, struck with his remarkable acquirements, induced M. d'Assy in 5788 to install an observatory for his benefit at his own residence. Here Delambre observed and computed almost uninterruptedly, and in 17 9 0 obtained for his Tables of Uranus the prize offered by the academy of sciences, of which body he was elected a member two years later. He was admitted to the Institute on its organization in 1795, and became, in 1803, perpetual secretary to its mathematical section. He, moreover, belonged from 1795 to the bureau of longitudes. From 1792 to 1799 he was occupied with the measurement of the arc of the meridian extending from Dunkirk to Barcelona, and published a detailed account of the operations in Base du systeme metrique (3 vols., 1806, 1807, 1810), for which he was awarded in 181 o the decennial prize of the Institute. The first consul nominated him inspector-general of studies; he succeeded Lalande in 1807 as professor of astronomy at the College de France, and filled the office of treasurer to the imperial university from 1808 until its suppression in 1815. Delambre died at Paris on the 19th of August 1822. His last years were devoted to researches into the history of science, resulting in the successive publication of: Histoire de l'astronomie ancienne (2 vols., 1817); Histoire de l'astronomie au moyen age (1819); Histoire de l'astronomie moderne (2 vols., 1821); and Histoire de l'astronomie au XVIII' sieele, issued in 5827 under the care of C. L. Mathieu. These books show marvellous erudition; but some of the judgments expressed in them are warped by prejudice; they are diffuse in style and overloaded with computations. He wrote besides: Tables ecliptiques des satellites de Jupiter, inserted in the third edition of J. J. Lalande's Astronomie (1792), and republished in an improved form by the bureau of longitudes in 1817; Methodes analytiques pour la determination d'un arc du meridien (1799); Tables du soleil (publiees par le bureau des longitudes) (1806); Rapport historique sur les progres des sciences mathematiques depuis l'an 1789 (181o); A brege d'astronomie (1813); Astronomic theorique et pratique (1814); &c.

See J. B. J. Fourier's "Eloge" in Memoires de l'acad. des sciences, t. iv.; Ch. Dupin, Revue encyclopedique, t. xvi. (1822); Biog. universelle, t. lxii. (C. L. Mathieu); Max. Marie, Hist. des sciences, x. 31; R. Grant, Hist. of Physical Astr. pp. 96, 142, 165; R. Wolf, Geschichte der Astronomie, p. 779, &c. (A. M. C.)

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