The New Student's Reference Work/Laplace, Pierre Simon

The New Student's Reference Work (1914)
Laplace, Pierre Simon

La′place′, Pierre Simon, a French mathematical astronomer called the Newton of France, was born on March 28, 1749, and died on March 5, 1827. He began by teaching mathematics in a military school at Beaumont, but through the influence of D'Alembert, he was shortly appointed to the École Militaire of Paris. His great work consisted in deriving all motions of all members of the solar system from dynamics alone. The results are his famous Celestial Mechanics (1799-1825). His contributions to mathematical physics also are of extreme importance; for to Laplace we owe the beautiful method of Spherical Harmonics and the powerful Potential Function. Laplace perhaps is best known by his bold and attractive hypothesis that the solar system is merely a condensed nebula — the so-called nebular hypothesis. Although undoubtedly anticipated by Kant in the general idea, Laplace offered so powerful evidence for his view that we may fairly call the theory a Laplacian one. Within the last few years tnis hypothesis has been ably criticised by Professors Chamberlain and Moulton of the University of Chicago. See Professor Moulton's article in the Astro-physical Journal, Vol. XI., pp. 103-30 (1900).