Person: Montucla, Jean Étienne
Étienne Montucla was a French historian of mathematics who wrote in 1754 a history of the problem of squaring the circle.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- Étienne was interested in a wide range of studies at the Jesuit College.
- The advice from Jombert, d'Alembert and Diderot set Montucla on the road of publishing on the history of mathematics.
- His first work was Histoire des recherches sur la quadrature du cercle Ⓣ(History of research on squaring the circle) which was published by Jombert in Paris in 1754, and the high regard in which this work was held can be judged by the fact that on the strength of this work alone Montucla was elected a corresponding member of the Berlin Academy.
- Although the history of the problem of squaring the circle has changed greatly since Montucla's day this book is still a classic of its kind.
- Montucla needed an income to allow him to pursue his research interests and around this time he worked at the Gazette de Paris.
- In 1756 Montucla published a work which shows the breadth of his scientific interests.
- Montucla had been intending to produce a third volume covering the first half of the 18th century but the volume of work which had appeared during this time, and the difficulties of putting recent work into its historical context, led him to give up this aim.
- These two volumes rightly led to Montucla gaining a high reputation in Paris and he began to work for the French government.
- The intendant was an important royal official with control over the area, and it was to that position that Montucla was appointed in 1761.
- A year after his marriage the French government sent Montucla to Cayenne on the north-eastern coast of South America.
- Jean Richer had been sent there by the French government almost exactly 100 years earlier and Montucla also went there as an astronomer.
- Montucla was appointed royal astronomer and secretary to a French expedition to French Guiana in 1764 and was sent to La Ravardière.
- After his return to France, Montucla received another major government appointment, as Head Clerk of Royal Buildings, holding the post from 1766 to 1789.
- Charles Hutton translated Montucla's edition of Ozanam's Récréations mathématiques et physiques Ⓣ(Mathematical and physical recreations) into English in 1803 and Riddle's edition was published in 1844, called Recreations in science and natural philosophy.
- In 1788 Fourier sent an algebra paper to Montucla for his opinion.
- This may mean that Montucla had stopped doing mathematics at this time but Fourier's comment is not properly understood.
- Not surprisingly Montucla's royal posts vanished when the French Revolution began in 1789.
- Montucla's friends persuaded him to work on a new edition of his famous Histoire des mathématiques Ⓣ(History of Mathematics).
- In August 1799 Montucla published new editions through Agasse in Paris of the two volumes originally published in 1758.
- Montucla extensively revised and enlarged the two volumes.
- Lalande, with the help of some other scientists, completed volumes three and four to give the coverage that Montucla had intended.
Born 5 September 1725, Lyon, France. Died 18 December 1799, Versailles, France.
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Tags relevant for this person:
Ancient Greek, Astronomy, Geometry, Puzzles And Problems
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