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Fermat, Pierre de

1. Dates
Born: Beaumont; baptised 20 Aug. 1601
Died: Castres (somewhere near Toulouse), 12 Jan. 1665
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 64
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant
His father had a prosperous leather business. He was also second consul (whatever that might have been) of Beaumont. Fermat's uncle and godfather was also a merchant. His mother brought the social status of the parliamentary noblesse de la robe to the family.
This certainly says at least affluence.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Orleans, LD
He received a solid classical secondary education, beginning at the convent of the Cordeliers in Beaumont (run by the Franciscans). After studying with the Franciscans, he then studied with the Jesuits. He may have attended the University of Toulouse. He obtained the degree of Bachelor of Civil Laws from the University of Orleans in 1631. I accept this as the equivalent of a B.A., and in accordance with my practice I list also the degree in law.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
In the Parlement of Toulouse, which was divided according to religion, he was a Catholic counsellor.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government, Personal Means
Fermat enjoyed financial security throughout his life. In 1631, he registered as a lawyer in Toulouse. He purchased the office of conseiller and commissaire aux requetes in the parlement of Toulouse that same year for 43,500 livres. In 1634 he rose to the position of conseiller aux enquetes, and in 1642 he entered the highest councils of the parlement: the criminal court and then the Grand Chamber. (I think this was the Chambre de l'Édit.) He also served as member and then president of the Chambre de l'Édit.
The dowry his wife brought was 12,000 livres.
8. Patronage
Type: None
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
He corresponded with Carcavi, Brulart de Saint Martin, Mersenne, Roberval, Pascal, Huygens, Descartes, Frénicle, Gassendi, Lalouvere, Torricelli, Van Schooten, Digby, and Wallis.
  1. Jean Itard, Pierre Fermat, Kurze Mathematike Biographien, no. 10, Basel, 1950. QA29 .F35 I8.
  2. Roger Albernhe, Pierre de Fermat: magistrat, mathématicien, Discours prononcé à l'audience solennelle de retrée du 16 Septembre 1969, (Agen, 1970). [QA29.F35 A52 1970]
  3. Dictionnaire de biographie française, 13, 1041-2.
  4. Michael Sean Mahoney, The Mathematical Career of Pierre de Fermat, 1601-1665, (Princeton, 1973).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. J.E.Hofmann, "Pierre Fermat--ein Pionier der neuen Mathematik", Praxis der Mathematik, 7 (1965), pp.113-119, 171-180, 197-203.
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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