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Blondel, Nicolas-Francois

1. Dates
Born: Ribemont (France), c.10 June 1618 (baptized on 15 June).
Died: Paris, 21 January 1686
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 68
2. Father
Occupation: Government Official
His father, Guillaume-François Blondel, was master of petitions to the queen mother and king's attorney at the bailiff's court of Vermandois. He was also mayor of Vermandois several times. Finally he was granted letters of nobility in 1654. He died in 1663, nearly bankrupt.
No clear information on financial status during Blondel's youth.
3. Nationality
Birth: Ribemont,France
Career: France
Death: Paris, France
4. Education
Schooling: No University
No formal education; he entered the army at age 17.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic (assumed)
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Engineering
As a famous military engineer and architect, he wrote and published many works on engineering and architecture. In his Cours d'architecture (1675-1683), he formulated the rule of art, approved by the Royal Academy of Architecture and applied universally ever since.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government, Patronage, Engineering
Secondary: Academia, Military
1635-52: he was basically a soldier and sailor during these years. He was the only military man I met for some time, but there were eventually others and I instituted the category.
In 1635 he became an infantry cadet and fought against the Imperial forces in the Thirty Years War.
Between 1640-1652 he held a variety of positions, a few of them in naval engineering, but he was essentially a fighting soldier and sailor.
In 1651, he was named sergent de bataille, a high position.
1651, he worked on the fortifications on the coast of Provence.
In 1652, he was named Maréchal des Camps (Brigadier-general)
In 1652, he became tutor to the son of Loménie de Brienne, Secretary of State for foreign affairs.
In 1655, he succeeded Gassendi as lecturer in mathematics at the Collège Royale, with an annual salary of 600 livres.
1656-59, Loménie de Brienne entrusted him with several diplomatic misssions; he was given the title, Conseiller d'État, to facilitate the missions.
In 1662, he became commissioner general of the navy.
1662-8, syndic administrator of the Collège Royale.
1664, sat on a marine military engineering commission under Colbert; he also worked on individual projects.
1666, a senior member of a military expedition to the Antilles, under orders from Colbert de Terron.
In 1669, Colbert sponsored Blondel's admission to the Royal Academy of Sciences as a geometer (topographer).
In 1671, he was appointed professor at, and director of, the Royal Academy of Architecture. In 1672, Louis XIV put him in charge of public works for the city of Paris, and through the 70's he carried out a number of major public works and city-planning projects.
In 1673, he was made tutor to the dauphin in mathematics, belles lettres, and military arts.
His total salary from the professorship at the Collège Royale, membership in the Académie des sciences, and directorship of the architectural academy was 4800 livres. When he died he left his wife debts of 60,000 livres.
In one sense, all of his engineering work is subsumed under "Governmental employee" and "Patronage." However, I want the catalogue to indicate that he worked as an engineer.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Government Official
Louis XIV. See above.
Loménie de Brienne, Secretary of State for foreign affairs. See above.
Colbert. See above.
Cardinal Richelieu was his first major patron, employing him from around 1640 for diplomatic, surveillance, and military engineering jobs. Richelieu named him sub-lieutenant of his galley, "Le Cardinal." Blondel was given the governorhip of the tiny naval stronghold of Palamas, where he recovered from wounds. He also served Richelieu's successor, Mazarin, in the Italian campaign, and the Duke of Richelieu, the Cardinal's nephew, also in southern Italy. He continued to undertake missions for Mazarin after 1656. In recognition of his accomplishments in 1657-9, Mazarin gave him 4000 livres.
It was probably Loménie de Brienne who was responsible for Blondel's chair at the Collège Royale, as well as some of his diplomatic assignments.
Colbert, secretary of state for commerce, marine affairs, colonies, and finances, gave Blondel the job of Royal engineer for marine affairs.
1668, Blondel was ennobled as a consequence of his father's ennoblement in 1654.
1671, when Colbert decided to found the Académie royale d'architecture, he made Blondel the first director. Members were given pensions of 500 livres. Blondel seems to have remained active in the Académie until his death.
Like Loménie de Brienne, Colbert had Blondel accompany his son on a trip, this one to Italy.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Civil Engineering, Military Engineering
He directed construction for the region and drew up plans for Rochefort and its fortifications, and for restoration of the Saintes bridge and the Roman arch.
He undertook numerous military engineering projects, many of them having to do with the fortification of naval facilities or coastal defence. He also wrote two books: La nouvelle manière de fortifier les places, and L'art de jeter les bombes.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Académie Royal des Sciences
He was admitted to the Royal Academy of Sciences as a geometer in 1669. From 1669-82, he received an annual pension of 1500 livres.
He was appointed professor at, and director of, the Royal Academy of Architecture in 1671.
  1. Louis-Placide Mauclaire and C. Vigoureux, Nicolas-Francois de Blondel, ingenieur et architecte du roi (1618-1686), (Laon, 1938). This is an excellent source. Henry Lemonnier,Proces-verbaux de l'Academie Royale d'architecture 1671-1793,I-II, Paris, 1911-1912, passim. This has virtually nothing of interest for this project.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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