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Delisle, Guillaume

1. Dates
Born: France, 28 Feb. 1675
Died: France, 25 Jan. 1726
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 51
2. Father
Occupation: Schoolmaster, Government Official
His father, Claude Delisle, was a historian and geographer who made his living by giving private instruction in these fields. He was later a royal censor. Philippe of Orléans was Claude Delisle's pupil and patron. Guillaume's mother was the daughter of a lawyer.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: No University
He was taught both by his father and by Gian Domenico Cassini, the director of Paris observatory. There is no mention of university education.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic (assumed)
His father had been educated by the Jesuits.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Cartography
He was the first modern cartographer. His published several atlases and many single maps. He applied astronomical findings to his maps and insisted on critical use of source materials and dependence on accurate measurements. He did not, however, introduce any cartographic innovations of a mathematical type.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Publishing, Patronage
Secondary: Government
1699, he produced his first maps and globes.
He ran his own mapmaking establishment in Paris until his death, located first on St. Sulpice and then on the Quai de l'Horologue.
He was elected to the Académie in 1702, but never became a full member.
He tutored the young king, Louis XV, in geography.
In 1718 he was given the title Premier géographe du roi with a yearly salary of 1200 livres.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Scientist
He taught the king geography and was given the title Premier géographe du roi. Delisle made a number of globes and maps for the king.
Note that his father had taught the Duke of Orléans who had always remained attached to him. Delisle dedicated his first celestial globes (1699) to the Duke of Orléans.
Cassini brought him into the Académie.
Delisle was wooed by the King of Sardinia who wanted him to enter his service, but Delisle refused. The Tsar of Russia appears to have made similar overtures.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Cartography
He was an accomplished mapmaker and globemaker.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Académie Royal des Sciences, 1702-1726
He studied under Cassini. His membership in the Académie was as an astronomer under Cassini; the Académie did not have a position in geography. In 1716 he was made adjunct member and in 1718 associate member.
  1. Christian Sandler, Die Reformation der Kartographie um 1700, Munich-Berlin, 1905, pp.14-23.
  2. Dictionnaire de biographie Française, 10, 840.
  3. Fontenelle, "Éloge de M. Delisle," L'Histoire de l'Académie Royale des Sciences, 1726, 103-16.
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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