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La Faille, Jean Charles de

1. Dates
Born: Antwerp, 1 March 1597
Died: Barcelona, 4 Nov. 1652
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 55
2. Father
Occupation: Aristocrat
His father was seigneur de Leverghem.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Belgium
Career: Belgium, Spain
Death: Spain
4. Education
Schooling: Religous Order, D.D.
He received his early schooling at the Jesuit College of Antwerp. In 1613 he became a novitiate of the Jesuit order at Malines for two years. Afterword he was sent to Antwerp where he was one of the disciples of Gregory of Saint Vincent. In 1620 he was sent to France to follow a course of theology at Dole. I assume the equivalent of a B.A. As an ordained Jesuit who had taken the fourth vow, he would have had a doctorate in theology.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
He entered the Jesuit order in 1613.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
He owed his fame as a scholar to his tract, Theoremata de centro gravitatis partium circuli et ellipsis, published at Antwerp in 1632. In it the center of gravity of a sector of a circle was determined for the first time.
Theses mechanicae, 1625.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life, Academia, Patronage
Secondary: Schoolmastering
In 1613 he became a novitiate of the Jesuit order at Malines for two years. Afterward he was sent to Antwerp, and in 1620 to France to study and to teach mathematics at Dole.
After his return to Belgium in 1626, he taught mathematics at the Jesuit College of Louvain for the next two years.
In 1629 he was appointed (by the General of the Jesuits!) professor at the Imperial College in Madrid. In addition to the university he gave lessons in mathematics and in fortification to members of the nobility.
In 1644 Philp IV appointed him preceptor to his bastard son, Don Juan of Austria. La Faille accompanied Don Juan on military expeditions to Catalonia, Sicily, and Naples.
In 1638, Philip IV gave La Faille the title of Cosmographe du Conseil des Indes.
8. Patronage
Type: Court Official
Philip IV appointed him preceptor to his son Don Juan of Austria, whom he accompanied on his expeditions to Naples, Sicily, and Catalonia. La Faille and Don Juan became quite close.
La Faille dedicated his work on centers of gravity to Philip IV.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Military Engineering
Philip IV consulted La Faille on questions of defense and of military engineering and later charged him with teaching military arts and engineering to pages in the court. He served as technical adviser to the Duke of Alba along the Portuguese frontier in 1641-4. He also accompanied Don Juan on military expeditions.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
He corresponded with Michel van Langren.
  1. H.P. van der Speeten, "Le R.P. Jean Charles della Faille, de la Compagnie de Jesus, Precepteur de Don Juan d'Austriche," Collection de Precis Historiques, 3 (1874), pp.77-83, 111-17, 132-42, 191-201, 213-19, and 241-6.
  2. Carlos Sommervogel, ed. Bibliothèque de la Compagnie de Jésus, (Brussels, 1891), 3, 529-30.
  3. Biographie nationale (Belgian), 6, 852-6.
  4. José Maria Lopez Piñero, et al., Diccionaria historico de la ciencia moderna en España, 2 vols. (Barcelona: Ediciones Peninsula, 1983).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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©1995 Al Van Helden
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