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Boulliau, Ismael

1. Dates
Born: Loudun, 1605
Died: France, 1694
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 89
2. Father
Occupation: Lawyer
The father was a notary in Loudun.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: France
Career: France
Death: France
4. Education
Schooling: Paris, Poitiers
Early studies were in the humanities at Loudun, then philosophy, probably at Paris, and law, possibly at Poitiers. No mention of a degree.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Born a Calvinist, converted to Catholicism at 21.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy, Mathematics, Optics
Subordinate: Astrology.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage
Secondary: Church Living.
1630, became a priest. Was for a short time vicar to Urbain Grandier, and helped direct the parish of Saint-Pierre du Marche (Loudun).
1633-6, settled in Paris, means of support unknown.
1636, librarian of the Hotel de Thou to the brothers Jacques and Pierre DuPuy, who themselves were the keepers of the royal library. According to Humbert he was secretary to J. Aug. de Thou ambassador of France to Holland and Constantinople, and with de Thou travelled to the Levant.
1645 and 1651, undertook long book-buying tours for the Hotel de Thou, visiting learned centers in Italy and the east, and then Holland and Germany.
1651, Pierre DuPuy died, Boulliau moved in with Jacques.
1656, Jacques died. Boulliau received a scant (Hatch's term) 1000 livres from his will. In 1657 he was offered opportunity to work with Nicolas Colbert, the new director of the Bibliotheque du Roi, but, possibly upset that he had not been offered that job, took a job a secretary to Jacques- August de Thou II, the new ambassador to the States of Holland. He stayed in Holland only four months.
1660, travelled to Warsaw, after accompanying Mme. de Thou to Holland. Upon returning, stayed in Holland 1660-2, then returned to Paris.
1662-6, librarian to the Bibliotheque de Thou.
1666-89, lived at the Collège de Laon.
1689-94, retired as a priest at the Abbey St. Victor.
8. Patronage
Types: Aristocracy, Court
For a substantial part of his working life he was supported by the brothers DuPuy and then de Thou. He fell out with de Thou in 1666.
In addition, he also had connections with Prince Leopold de' Medici, with whom he was a regular correspondent. In 1649, Ferdinand II, Leopold's brother, offered him a professorship at Pisa. And Leopold sent him gifts of an 11 ft. telescope and a mercury thermometer. Boulliau dedicated his Observatio secundi deliquii lunaris (1653) to Leopold.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: None
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Royal Society
Participated in the Mersenne Circle and the Cabinet DuPuy, and was a member of the group that became the Académie, but was not himself a member of the Académie.
Foreign associate of the Royal Society (1667), and a corresponding member of the Accademia del Cimento.
A prolific correspondent, he was in contact with Mersenne, Gassendi, Huygens, Pascal, Prince Leopold, Hevelius, Luillier, Morin, and many others.
  1. J.P. Niceron, Memoires pour servir a l'histoire des hommes illustres..., 1, 327-32, 10, 61-2. [Lilly Z1010.N5]
  2. Robert A. Hatch, The Collection Boulliau (Philadelphia, 1982), xxiii-lviii. [QB36.B68 H37 (1982)]
  3. P. Humbert, "Les astronomes françaises de 1610 à 1667," Bulletin de la Société d'études scientifiques et archéologiques de Draguignan et du Var, 42 (1942), pp. 5-72.
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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