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Feuillée, Louis

1. Dates
Born: Mane, Basse-Alpes, 15 Aug. 1660.
Died: Marseilles, 18 April 1732
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 72
2. Father
Occupation: Peasant/Small Farmer
Scipion Feuilée was a small farmer. Feuillée spent his early years in the convent of the Minims where his poor parents, who thought he was stupid, placed him 'en qualite de portier.'
I take the information at face value--poor.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French, Spanish
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Religous Order
His first studies were on his own at the convent of the Minims. He was sent to Marseille to study theology, and there he also discovered mathematics and astonomy. He took his vows in 1680 at Avignon. I find the equivalent of a B.A. in this.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
He was placed in the convent as a young child. He took his vows in 1680.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy, Natural History
Subordinate: Pharmacology, Botany, Zoology
Feuilée's rapid progress in astronomy and physics soon accorded him a reputation among the savants of Europe. Jacques Cassini recognized his talent, and he appears to have been behind the mission of the French government that sent Feuilée to the Levant and the coast of northern Africa to determine the exact positions of a number of ports. The success of this first trip led Feuillée to solicit means for a second voyage, this time to the Antilles and the South American coast (1703). It is uncertain whether Feuillée got the means for this and his succeeding voyages from the Académie, the court, or some other source. In 1707 he set off for South America a second time with letters of recommedations from the minister of France. One of the results of this trip was a more accurate map of the Chilean coast. He also mapped Buenos Ayres and the Plata. He made astronomical observations, and he collected both plants and animals, even doing dissections of some of the animals. He published a botanical piece on the medicinal use of 100 plants from this trip, Histoire des plantes médicinales, (Paris, 1714-1725). He brought back natural historical specimens of all sorts.
Upon his return Louis XIV had an observatory built at Marseilles for Feuilée. In 1724 the Académie commissioned Feuillée to establish the longitude of Hierro Island in the Canaries. He published his observations made during his several trips in 1714 and 1725.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life, Patronage, Government
Although Feuillée probably spent 30 years of his life at the convent of the Minims, a great deal is not known about his duties in the order. In 1694 he was correcteur of the community of Notre-Dame de Vie, near Venusque, and then he was in monasteries at Arles and Marseille.
Feuillée seems to have enjoyed the patronage of the court, the minister of France, and the Académie and members of this society. He was named mathematician to the King in 1706, which involved nothing much beyond the title. However, in 1711 the king bestowed a pension on him along with the observatory.
8. Patronage
Types: Scientist, Government Official, Court Official
Jacques Cassini sponsored Feuilée in the Académie. The Académie, which was very appreciative of Feuillée's observations, named him a correspondent.
Pontchartrain, an important minister in the government, commissioned the trip to South America at Feuilée's request.
In 1707 he was appointed royal mathematician.
In 1711, in recognition of his useful services and explorations Louis XIV awarded him a pension and had the observatory at Marseilles built for him.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Pharmacology, Cartography, Instruments
Feuillée published a work on the medicinal uses of 100 plants from Peru and Chile.
He did a map of the coast of Chile, and the establishment of the longitude of Hierro Island was undoubtedly also a project in cartography. That early trip to the Levant certainly sounds like cartography, and I assume the later ones to South America were also. Note that they were closely tied to navigational needs and could easily be listed under that category also. The commission for the second trip to South America explicitly said that the purpose of his observations was to perfect geography in order to establish secure navigation.
Feuilée was facile at constructing his own instruments.
10. Scientific Societies
Membership: Académie Royal des Sciences 1699-1732
Impressed by Feuilée's observations, Jacques Cassini had him appointed a corresponding member of the Académie in 1699.
  1. Hoefer, Nouvelle biographie générale, (Paris, 1857-66), 17-18.
  2. Michaud, Biographie générale, 14.
  3. Dictionnaire de biographie française.
  4. Alfred Lacroix, "Notice historique sur les membres et correspondants de l'Académie ayant travailé dans les colonies francaises de la Guyane et des Antilles de la fin du XVIIe siècle au début du XIXe," Mémoires de l'Académie des sciences de l'Institut de France, 2nd ser. 61 (1934), 1-99, especially 11-16. Though only five pages, this is still the best account I have been able to find.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. P. Autran, Essai historique sur P. Feuilée, 1846.
  2. Saint-Yves, Un voyageur bas-alpin, 1896.
  3. C. Bernard, Un érudit bas-alpin, 1904.
  4. These last three items all come from the Dictionnaire de biographie francaise. They are not in the NUC or the catalogue of the Bibliothéque nationale. I suspect that they are journal articles, and I have not made any further effort to track them down.
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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