Person: Juan, Jorge
Jorge Juan was a mathematician and seaman who took part in the famous Franco-Spanish expedition to South America to measure a degree of meridian at the Equator. He introduced the study of Newton to Spain, supervised the modernisation of the Spanish Navy and set the basis for the future Spanish Academy of Sciences.
Mathematical Profile (Excerpt):
- During the following four years, Juan alternated his studies with participation in different naval actions in the Mediterranean, such as the one in 1731 that led the Infante Don Carlos to take possession of the duchies of Parma, Piacenza and Tuscany, or the one in 1732 that reconquered Oran.
- Juan and Ulloa set foot in America in July 1735 and, a few months later, they met the French commissioners in Cartagena de Indias, thus beginning a true scientific adventure that would keep them in the American continent until the end of 1744.
- When England and Spain went to war in 1740, Juan and Ulloa had to attend to the requirements of the Viceroy Marquis de Villagarcía, who commissioned them to organise the defense of the Pacific coasts and strongholds, undertaking the fortification works of Lima, Guayaquil and other enclaves, before the attacks of the English squadron of Commodore George Anson who, after going around Cape Horn, had sacked Paita's harbour.
- At the end of 1744, Juan and Ulloa embarked separately for Europe.
- For his part, Jorge Juan, after ten months of sailing, landed in Brest at the end of October 1745 and from there he went to Paris, where the Académie Royale des Sciences named him corresponding member.
- For this reason, Juan was sent by the minister to England to carry out a mission of authentic industrial espionage that took place between March 1749 and April 1750.
- Additionally, John Bevis dedicated to Juan the last of the 51 celestial maps collected in his Uranographia Britannica.
- Upon his return from England, Jorge Juan was promoted to captain and was commissioned by the Marquis de la Ensenada to direct the works on the arsenals, as well as the renovation and modernization of all naval construction.
- During his stay in London observing English techniques, Juan had verified the advantages of their ships, more agile and faster, so he applied himself to the study and reflection of a new method based not only on practice but on mathematical calculation and Principles of Physics applied to the movement of ships in water.
- After multiple tests with models built to scale, in 1752 Juan gathered in Madrid all the technicians brought from England and for nine months he designed and drew the plans of all kinds of ships and their different parts, establishing a uniform set of rules and drafting a new method of shipbuilding in which he applied his knowledge of mechanics, hydraulics and differential and integral calculus, and in which the innovations were not limited to the ship's carpentry but also included the rigging and arrangement of the rigging in the ship.
- In the Cadiz arsenal of La Carraca, the intervention of Jorge Juan, in 1753, consisted of drawing up a project together with José Barnola to adapt the facilities to the new techniques.
- In addition to his continuous trips to direct the works of the arsenals, Jorge Juan held different commissions in fields as diverse as cartography, mining, hydraulics or the steel industry that would force him to move continuously from one edge of the country to another.
- Another important activity carried out by Juan was in the educational field.
- The innovation introduced by Juan consisted of having ship mock-ups or scale models built as a teaching tool to familiarise the midshipmen with the problems of naval construction and navigation, but also as a useful instrument with which to experiment with the limits of a theory, since Juan also used scale models to carry out demonstrations with which to test specific projects and convince technicians, ministers or even the monarch himself of their viability.
- Another very important contribution of Jorge Juan during his stay in Cadiz was the creation in 1753 of the first astronomical observatory in Spain, a project he carried out together with Luis Godin, his former partner in the scientific expedition to Peru and who since November 1753 served as director of the Academy.
- And another initiative of Juan in the intellectual field was the creation, in 1755, of a salon which he called the Friendly Literary Assembly and which included professors from the Academy of Marine Guards and the College of Surgery of Cadiz.
- In September 1766, Juan was appointed plenipotentiary ambassador to the Moroccan court to close a peace and trade treaty whose preliminaries had been negotiated during that year by Sidi Ahmet el Gacel on behalf of the sultan of Morocco.
- Juan managed to revitalise the Seminary after undertaking a profound academic and administrative reform.
- But the intense pace of work that Juan had endured for years ended up affecting his health.
- Juan had the intention of taking advantage of the new edition of the work to include in it, as introduction, a document entitled State of Astronomy in Europe in which he made a firm statement in favour of Newtonian laws or principles he had written in 1765 and that he failed to publish it.
- Jorge Juan had publicly read the above mentioned booklet during a Physics class that he taught on the 15th of that month at the Seminary of Nobles, but due to his sudden death six days later, he could not see his project finished.
- Although already deceased, Jorge Juan finally made official a scientific system whose mere mention in Spain, at that point in the 18th century, still scared the ignorant.
Born 5th January, 1713, Novelda, Alicante, Spain. Died June 21, 1773, Madrid, Spain.
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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