◀ ▲ ▶History / 18th-century / Person: De Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc Comte
Person: De Buffon, Georges Louis Leclerc Comte
Georges Buffon was a French scientist who was important in the area of natural history. His needle experiment caused much discussion about probability.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- At this time Georges entered the Jesuit College of Godrans in Dijon and he was educated there until 1723.
- It did not look that Georges would become a star in legal circles for his school performance was not above average.
- However, he was more interested in mathematics than he was in the law and at the age of 20 Buffon (he was now calling himself Georges-Louis Leclerc De Buffon) discovered the binomial theorem.
- In 1728 Buffon went to Angers to study mathematics, but he also studied other topics such as medicine and botany.
- Buffon, the Duke of Kingston and his tutor Nathaniel Hickman, visited southern France and Italy, arriving in Rome early in 1732.
- Buffon decided to settle on what was now his estate at Montbard.
- He wanted to improve the construction of ships of war, and he asked Buffon to study the tensile strength of timber to assist in this task.
- As a result of this fine memoir Buffon was elected to the Royal Academy of Sciences in Paris on 9 January 1734.
- Someone who is skilled in financial affairs and who starts with a large amount of money is usually able to make a considerably larger fortune for themselves, and this is precisely what Buffon did over the years from 1734 to 1740.
- A new phase in Buffon's life began in July 1739 when he was appointed as keeper of the royal botanical garden, the Jardin du Roi.
- For fifty years, Buffon spent the summer on his estate, returning to Paris in the autumn.
- The wide range of topics which Buffon wrote on include mathematics, the theory of probability, astronomy and physics, especially optics.
- Unlike Newton, Buffon believed that everything developed through natural phenomena.
- Buffon proposed a method of creation of the planets which involved the collision of a comet with the sun.
- Similarly Buffon argued that life came about on earth through the appearance of organic matter which was the result of heat on aqueous, oily substances.
- Buffon was among the first to create an autonomous science, free of any theological influence.
- Voltaire did not appreciate his style, and d'Alembert called him "the great phrasemonger." According to the writer J-F Marmontel, Buffon had to put up with snubs from the mathematicians, chemists, and astronomers, while the naturalists themselves gave him little support and some even reproached him for writing ostentatiously in a subject that required a simple and natural style.
- Buffon himself reacted to the attacks on him with great dignity and did not get into bad tempered disputes as many scientists of this period did.
- The needle experiment, described in 1777, was not the only problem in probability that Buffon examined.
Born 7 September 1707, Montbard, Côte d'Or, France. Died 16 April 1788, Paris, France.
View full biography at MacTutor
Tags relevant for this person:
Astronomy, Geometry, Number Theory, Physics, Special Numbers And Numerals
Thank you to the contributors under CC BY-SA 4.0!
Adapted from other CC BY-SA 4.0 Sources:
- O’Connor, John J; Robertson, Edmund F: MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive