Person: Oresme, Nicole
Nicole Oresme was a French mathematician who invented coordinate geometry long before Descartes. He was the first to use a fractional exponent and also worked on infinite series.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Buridan had a major influence in interesting Oresme in natural philosophy and in encouraging him to question the ideas of Aristotle.
- Oresme's name appears on the list of scholarship holders in theology at the College of Navarre at the University of Paris in the year 1348.
- Not long after this Oresme became friendly with the dauphin Charles who went on to become Charles V of France in 1362.
- The friendship between Charles and Oresme was one which continued throughout their lives.
- Charles was in intellectual and religious man who enjoyed the company of scholars such as Oresme.
- After six years as the Grand Master of the College of Navarre, Oresme left in 1362 to become canon of the Cathedral of Rouen.
- In 1364 he became dean of the Cathedral of Rouen and, his friend Charles becoming King of France on 8 April of that year, Oresme was appointed as Charles' chaplain and councillor.
- As a reward for this work Charles appointed Oresme bishop of Lisieux in 1377 and he was consecrated in the following year.
- At a time when Aristotle's ideas were accepted almost without question, Oresme did indeed question them.
- Oresme invented a type of coordinate geometry before Descartes, finding the logical equivalence between tabulating values and graphing them in De configurationibus qualitatum et motuum.
- It is possible that Descartes was influenced by Oresme's work since it was reprinted several times over the 100 years following its first publication.
- Oresme was the first to prove Merton's theorem, namely that the distance travelled in a fixed time by a body moving under uniform acceleration is the same as if the body moved at a uniform speed equal to its speed at the midpoint of the time period.
- Another work by Oresme De proportionibus proportionum contains the first use of a fractional exponent, although, of course, not in modern notation.
- Oresme also worked on infinite series and argued for an infinite void beyond the Earth.
- None of these claims is, in fact, true, although each is based on discussion by Oresme of some penetration and originality ...
- In Livre du ciel et du monde (1377) Oresme opposed the theory of a stationary Earth as proposed by Aristotle and in this work he proposed rotation of the Earth some 200 years before Copernicus.
Born 1323, Allemagne (west of Riez), France. Died 11 July 1382, Lisieux, France.
View full biography at MacTutor
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Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive