Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

Clairaut, Alexis Claude

  • Jean-Pierre Luminet
Reference work entry

BornParis, France, 7 May 1713

DiedParis, France, 17 May 1765

Alexis Clairaut was an outstanding mathematician and a prominent French Newtonian. Clairaut was the only one of 20 children of his parents to reach adulthood. His father, Jean-Baptiste Clairaut, taught mathematics in Paris and educated his son at home to an extremely high standard. Alexis used Euclid’s Elements while learning to read and by the age of nine had mastered N. Guisnée’s classical mathematics textbook on algebra, differential calculus, and analytical geometry.

In 1726, at the age of 13, Clairaut read his first paper “Quatre problèmes sur de nouvelles courbes” to the Paris Academy of Sciences. After completing a work on double curvature curves, he was proposed for membership in the academy on 4 September 1729, but he was so young that his election was not confirmed by the king until 1731. Then, at the age of 18, Clairaut became the youngest person ever elected to the academy. He joined a small group of remarkable...

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Selected References

  1. Brunet, Pierre. “La vie et l’oeuvre de Clairaut.” Revue d’histoire des sciences et de leurs applications 4 (1951): 13–40, 109–153; 5 (1952): 334–349; 6 (1953): 1–17.Google Scholar
  2. Itard, Jean (1971). “Clairaut, Alexis-Claude.” In Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Charles Coulston Gillispie. Vol. 3, pp. 281–286. New York: Charles Scribner’s SonsGoogle Scholar
  3. Taton, René (1976). “Inventaire chronologique de l’oeuvre d’Alexis-Claude Clairaut (1713–1765).” Revue d’histoire des sciences et de leurs applications 29: 97–122.MathSciNetMATHCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. —(1978). “Sur la diffusion des théories newtoniennes en France: Clairaut et le problème de la figure de la terre.” Vistas in Astronomy 22: 485–509.Google Scholar
  5. —(1986). “Clairaut et le retour de la comète de Halley en 1759.” L’Astronomie 100: 397–408.Google Scholar
  6. Wilson, Curtis (1993). “Clairaut’s Calculation of the Eighteenth-century Return of Halley’s Comet.” Journal for the History of Astronomy 24: 1–15.ADSMathSciNetCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Observatoire de ParisMeudonFrance