Pierre-Simon Laplace Biography

(French Mathematician and Astronomer Who was Best Known for His Investigations into the Stability of the Solar System)

Birthday: March 23, 1749 (Aries)

Born In: Beaumont-en-Auge, France

Pierre-Simon Laplace was a French mathematician and astronomer who carried out remarkable studies regarding the stability of the solar system and is famously known as the ‘French Newton’. He also did pioneering work in mathematics regarding the theory of probability and statistics which influenced a whole new generation of mathematicians. Born in a poor family, his education was financed by neighbors and he was sent to study theology at the age of 16. But, he soon developed a keen interest in mathematics and was subsequently drawn to physics and astronomy. He served as a professor of mathematics for seven years and also published several scientific papers alongside. Laplace successfully accounted for all the observed deviations of the planets from their theoretical orbits by applying Sir Isaac Newton’s theory of gravitation to the solar system, and he developed a conceptual view of evolutionary change in the structure of the solar system. He also demonstrated the usefulness of probability for interpreting scientific data and applied his own definition of probability to justify the fundamental mathematical manipulations. He restated and developed the nebular hypothesis of the origin of the solar system and also postulated the existence of black holes along with the notion of gravitational collapse
Quick Facts

French Celebrities Born In March

Also Known As: Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace

Died At Age: 77


Spouse/Ex-: Marie-Charlotte de Courty de Romanges

Quotes By Pierre-Simon Laplace Astronomers

Died on: March 5, 1827

place of death: Paris, France

Notable Alumni: University Of Caen

More Facts

education: University Of Caen

  • 1

    What were Pierre-Simon Laplace's contributions to the field of mathematics?

    Pierre-Simon Laplace made significant contributions to mathematics, particularly in the areas of probability theory, statistics, and celestial mechanics. He is known for his work on the Laplace transform, Bayesian probability, and the nebular hypothesis in astronomy.
  • 2

    What is Laplace's equation and how is it used in physics?

    Laplace's equation is a second-order partial differential equation named after Pierre-Simon Laplace. It describes the relationship between the second derivatives of a function. In physics, Laplace's equation is used to model various phenomena, such as heat conduction, fluid dynamics, and electrostatics.
  • 3

    How did Laplace's work on celestial mechanics advance our understanding of the solar system?

    Laplace's work on celestial mechanics, particularly his investigations into the stability of the solar system, helped advance our understanding of the dynamics of planetary motion. He proposed the concept of gravitational perturbations and made significant contributions to the study of the stability of planetary orbits.
  • 4

    What is Laplace's law of succession in probability theory?

    Laplace's law of succession, also known as Laplace's rule of succession, is a principle in probability theory that provides a method for estimating the probability of an event based on past observations. It states that if an event has occurred m times in n trials, the probability of the event occurring in the next trial is (m+1)/(n+2).
  • 5

    How did Laplace's work influence the development of modern statistics?

    Laplace's work had a profound impact on the development of modern statistics. He made significant contributions to Bayesian probability theory, which provides a framework for updating beliefs based on new evidence. His ideas on statistical inference and decision theory continue to be influential in contemporary statistics.
Childhood & Early Life
Pierre-Simon Laplace was born on March 23, 1749, in Beaumont-en-Auge, a village in Normandy, France, to Pierre de Laplace, owner of small farms of Maarquis, and his wife, Marie-Anne Sochon.
Despite his family’s poor financial condition, Laplace was able to receive a good education courtesy his wealthy neighbors. His father wanted him to be ordained in the Roman Catholic Church and thus sent him to Caen University to study theology at the age of 16. But, Laplace developed a keen interest in mathematics.
At the age of 19, he dropped out of college and moved to Paris where he worked as a professor of mathematics at the École Militaire from 1769 to 1776. During this time, he published several papers regarding integral calculus, mechanics and physical astronomy, which gained him much acclaim all over France.
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In 1771, his early published work focused on differential equations and finite differences. Subsequently, he started to think about the mathematical and philosophical concepts of probability and statistics.
In 1774, his paper titled ‘Mémoire sur la probabilité des causes par les événements’ was published. Two years later, he published another paper which further elaborated his statistical thinking and also began his systematic work on celestial mechanics and the stability of the solar system.
During 1784–87, he worked on the subject of attraction between spheroids which laid the mathematical foundation for the scientific study of heat, magnetism, and electricity.
In 1796, he published ‘Exposition du système du monde (The System of the World)’, which included his ‘nebular hypothesis’.
Between 1799 and 1825, he published five volumes of ‘Traité de mécanique céleste (Celestial Mechanics)’, which summarized the results obtained by his mathematical development and application of the law of gravitation.
In 1812, he published his comprehensive research in mathematics titled ‘Théorie analytique des probabilités (Analytic Theory of Probability)’. Another major work on the theory of probability, titled ‘Essai philosophique sur les probabilités (A Philosophical Essay on Probability)’ was published in 1814.
He theorized the existence of black holes, suggesting that there could be massive stars whose gravity is so great that not even light could escape from its surface. He also stated the fact that the speed of sound in air depends on the heat capacity ratio.
His other discoveries in pure and applied mathematics include Laplace's method for approximating integrals, solution of the linear partial differential equation of the second order, and general proof of the Lagrange reversion theorem.
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Major Works
Pierre-Simon Laplace is highly regarded for his influential five-volume treatise ‘Traité de mécanique céleste’ (Celestial mechanics; 1799-1825), which developed a strong mathematical understanding of the motion of the heavenly bodies. He established that the small perturbations observed in the orbital motion of the planets will always remain small, constant and self-correcting.
He formulated Laplace's equation, and pioneered the Laplace transform which appears in many branches of mathematical physics. The Laplacian differential operator, widely used in mathematics, is also named after him.
Awards & Achievements
In 1806, Laplace was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
In 1822, he was appointed a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Personal Life & Legacy
In March 1788, he married Marie-Charlotte de Courty de Romanges, a girl from Besançon who was twenty years younger to him. The couple had a son, Charles-Émile, and a daughter, Sophie-Suzanne.
Pierre-Simon Laplace died on March 5, 1827, in Paris, France, at the age of 77. After he died, his physician, François Magendie, removed Laplace’s brain which was later displayed in a roving anatomical museum in Britain.
Facts About Pierre-Simon Laplace
Pierre-Simon Laplace was known for his incredible memory and was able to recite entire books word for word.
Laplace was a skilled mathematician and astronomer, but he also had a passion for botany and enjoyed studying plants in his free time.
Despite his impressive intellectual abilities, Laplace was known to be quite humble and approachable, often taking the time to help and mentor younger scientists.
Laplace was a pioneer in the field of probability theory and made significant contributions to the understanding of statistical distributions and their applications.
Laplace was known for his love of music and was an accomplished amateur musician, often playing the flute in his leisure time.

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