Pierre Simon Laplace

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Pierre Simon Laplace (b. Beaumont-en-Auge, March 23, 1749 - d. Paris, March 5, 1827) was a French astronomer and mathematician. Laplace is considered one of the greatest scientists of all time. His works are contained in his five volume "Celestial Mechanics" (1799-1825). French scientists, especially Laplace developed and systematized Isaac Newton's ideas into modern Classical mechanics in the late 18th century.

Laplace proved the stability of the solar system. In analysis Laplace introduced the potential function and Laplace coefficients. He also put the theory of mathematical probability on a sound footing.[1]

Laplace and Herschel developed the nebular hypothesis of the creation of the universe, which held that the planets were formed by a combination of gravitational, rotational, and thermal effects. He was the first to develop the idea of an infinite and mechanistic causal chain issuing in predictability.


Laplace was born on March 23, 1749 into a farming family in the Normandy, France. He visited the Benedictine priory school and studied theology at the University of Caen. But Laplace left Caen to focus on mathematics and lived in Paris. In 1788 he married his 18-year old wife Marie Charlotte de Courty de Romanges.[2]

The great French chemist Antoine Lavoisier collaborated with Laplace during 1777-84 on experiments on the physics of heat, temperature, and combustion. The collaboration was beneficial to the chemist Lavoisier because it increased his understanding of the physical aspects of chemical problems. Laplace's assistance enabled Lavoisier to complete his case for the rejection of phlogiston theory. Laplace, a mathematician and physicist who had earlier demonstrated tremendous breadth of scientific understanding, benefited from close association with the already well-known Lavoisier by achieving earlier recognition than would otherwise have been the case.[3]


  • It is India that gave us the ingenious method of expressing all numbers by means of ten symbols, each symbol receiving a value of position as well as an absolute value; a profound and important idea which appears so simple to us now that we ignore its true merit. But its very simplicity and the great ease which it has lent to computations put our arithmetic in the first rank of useful inventions; and we shall appreciate the grandeur of the achievement the more when we remember that it escaped the genius of Archimedes and Apollonius, two of the greatest men produced by antiquity.
  • The theory of probabilities is at bottom nothing but common sense reduced to calculus;[4] it enables us to appreciate with exactness that which accurate minds feel with a sort of instinct for which ofttimes they are unable to account.
  • All the effects of Nature are only the mathematical consequences of a small number of immutable laws.
  • Man follows only phantoms.
  • What we know is not much. What we do not know is immense.
  • Sire, je n'ai pas eu besoin de cette hypothèse. Laplace showed the Nebular hypothesis for the origins of the Solar System to Emperor Napoleon, who asked Where does God fit into your system? to which Laplace replied Sire, I have had no need for this hypothesis.[5]


  1. See Laplace
  2. http://totallyhistory.com/pierre-simon-laplace/
  3. Henry Guerlac, "Chemistry as a Branch of Physics: Laplace's Collaboration with Lavoisier," Historical Studies in the Physical Sciences 1976 7: 193-276.
  4. Laplace was very likely referring to the older meaning of this word, as a "way of calculating or reckoning something", rather than the modern usage of differential or integral calculus
  5. Pièrre Simon Laplace: The nebular hypothesis in answersingenesis.org. This quote is probably false, since it was first found in Augustus De Morgan's book, who also included the false Euler's ditto Monsieur, (a + bn/n = x) donc Dieu existe. Respondez!

See also

External links

Further reading

  • Fox, Robert. "The Rise and Fall of Laplacian Physics" Historical Studies In The Physical Sciences 1972 4: 89-136.
  • Numbers, Ronald L. Creation by Natural Law: Laplace's Nebular Hypothesis in American Thought (1977).