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Debeaune [de Beaune], Florimond

1. Dates
Born: Blois, 7 Oct. 1601 (this was the date of baptism)
Died: Blois, 18 Aug. 1652
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 51
2. Father
Occupation: Gentry
Florimond de Beaune (the father) was the illegitimate son of Jean II de Beaune. He was legitimized so that Florimond the mathematician inherited a title of nobility. Everything about this smacks of Gentry rather than Aristocracy, and so I list it. The father is repeatedly referred to as "Ecuyer." Florimond the mathematician (and undoubtedly his father before him) was Seigneur de Goulioust (or Goulioux); i.e., he inherited an estate. However, he married (initally) a woman from the bourgeoisie of Blois.
It appears clear that the father was not a man of great wealth, but I do not see how to deny that the circumstances were affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Paris
He studied law at Paris. There is no mention of a degree; a man of his status had no need for such.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
The brother of his grandfather was a cardinal. Florimond's son was a priest.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics, Astronomy
Subordinate: Mechanics, Optics
His renown was due to the Notes brièves that he wrote on Descartes' Géométrie, which appeared in the first Latin edition of Géométrie in 1649. Notes brièves clarify and conveniently illustrate some of the difficult passages of the Géométrie, and they played a role in the belated spread of Cartisian mathematics. The second edition of Géométrie also contained his two short papers on algebra.
He formulated various mathematical problems of the time, including the inverse problem of tangents.
One third of Debeaune's library was devoted to astronomy. He had his own observatory.
He left manuscripts, never published and now lost, on mechanics and dioptrics.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Personal Means, Government
Debeaune inherited a title and an estate. What matters more, Debeaune's second marriage brought him money. He spent much of his time at his country seat near Blois. He had money enough to assemble an excellent library and to build his own observatory. The money from the second marriage enabled him to buy an office.
At first he did military service. Later, he bought the office of counselor to the court of justice in Blois, and held the office until 1648. He had his country estate and a town house with an observatory.
8. Patronage
Type: None
Debeaune was from the class of patrons. Apparently not aspiring to mount beyond the provincial world of Blois, he had no need of patrons himself.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Instruments
He worked actively at grinding lenses and at realizing Descartes' machine to grind non-spherical lenses.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Friendship and correspondence with Descartes.
Friendship with Erasmus Batholin, whom he entrusted with arranging for the publication of several of his manuscripts.
He corresponded with Bulliaud, Mydorge, Billy, Bourdin, and Mersenne. Learned men, including Monconis as well as Descartes and Bartholin, came to Blois to discuss things with him.
  1. Charles Adam and G.Milhaud, eds., Descartes-correspondance, 1, (Paris, 1931), pp. 434-436. B1873 .A19
  2. Pierre Costabel, "Florimond de Beaune, érudit et savant de Blois," Revue d'histoire des sciences, 27 (1974), 73-5.
  3. _____, "Le traité de l'angle solide de Florimond de Beaune," Actes du XIe congrès internationale d'histoire des sciences, (1965), 3, 189-94.
  4. Dictionnaire de biographie française, 10, 422.
  5. P. Grimal, Dictionnaire des biographies, 1, 410.
  6. Adrien Thibaut, "Florimond de Beaune", Bulletin de la Société des sciences et lettres du Loire et Cher, 4, no.6, (Mar.1896), pp.13-29.
  7. Jean Bernier, Histoire de Blois, (Paris, 1682), 563-8. (Everyone treats this as the basic source on Debeaune's life.) P.Humbert," Les Astronomes françaises de 1610 a 1667," Société d'études scientifiques et archéologiques de Draguignan, Mémoires, 63 (1942), pp.1-72.
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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