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Pierre Simon Laplace, 1749-1827: A Determined Scientist

Biography / Memoir

By: Roger Hahn

322 pages, 3 halftones

Harvard University Press

Hardback | Oct 2005 | #159457 | ISBN: 0674018923
Temporarily out of stock: order now to get this when available Details
NHBS Price: £31.95 $39/€36 approx

About this book

Often referred to as the Newton of France, Pierre Simon Laplace has been called the greatest scientist of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. He affirmed the stability of the solar system and offered a powerful hypothesis about its origins. A skillful mathematician and popular philosopher, Laplace also did pioneering work on probability theory, in devising a method of inverse probabilities associated with his classic formulation of physical determinism in the universe. With Lavoisier and several younger disciples, he also made decisive advances in chemistry and mathematical physics.

Roger Hahn, who has devoted years to researching Laplace's life, has compiled a rich archive of his scientific correspondence. In this compact biography, also based in part on unpublished private papers, Hahn follows Laplace's journey from would-be priest in the provinces to Parisian academician, popularizer of science during the French Revolution, religious skeptic, and supporter of Napoleon. By the end of his life, Laplace had become a well-rewarded dean of French science.

In this first full-length biography, Hahn illuminates the man in his historical setting. Elegantly written, Pierre Simon Laplace reflects a lifetime of thinking and research by a distinguished historian of science on the fortunes of a singularly important figure in the annals of Enlightenment science.

A compelling portrait...[and a] trim and accessible biography of Laplace...Previous biographies...have focused on Laplace's scientific achievements. Hahn's admirable goal is to integrate his science with his personal and public life. To do so, Hahn has painstakingly assembled the manuscript sources that make possible such speculation from the outside.--Ken Alder"Times Higher Education Supplement" (04/07/2006)

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Roger Hahn is Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley.

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