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Pierre-Simon Laplace
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Mathematician
    (March 23, 1749-March 5, 1827)
    Born in Beaumont-en-Auge, France
    Mathematician and astronomer
    Wrote 'Analytic Theory of Probability' (1817) and 'Celestial Mechanics' (5 volumes, 1799-1825)
    Namesake for Laplace's equation, the Laplace transform and the Laplacian differential operator
    Little is known of his early life, partly because many of his papers were destroyed when his house was looted (1871.
    His parents are often described as peasant farmers, but his father was actually a well-to-do merchant in the cider trade.
    In 'Celestial Mechanics,' he frequently uses the phrase 'It is therefore obvious that...' to cover for having lost his original proof.
    A biographer noted, 'The skill and rapidity with which he managed to change his politics as occasion required would be amusing had they not been so servile.'
    He refused to sign a resolution of the Academy of Sciences supporting freedom of the press (1826).
    He was elected to the French Academy of Sciences at the unusually young age of 24; in the three years before his election, he had presented 13 papers before the Academy on a wide range of topics.
    He conducted several experiments with chemist Antoine Lavoisier, with the pair co-authoring 'A Memoir of Heat.' (1783)
    His only daughter, Sophie Suzanne, died in childbirth (1813).
    He received the Legion of Honor (1805).
    He was called 'the French Newton.

Credit: C. Fishel


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