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Mariotte, Edme

1. Dates
Born: Chazeuil, c. 1620
Died: Paris, 21 May 1684
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 64
2. Father
Occupation: Estate Administrator
He was the son of Simon Mariotte and Catherine Denisot. His father was a seigneurial officer of the bailliage of Til-Chatel in the service of Charles d'Escars, Baron of Aix, conseiller, and captain of the army of the Ordonnances du Roi. Simon Mariotte served two successors to d'Escars.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: No University
There are no clues to his scientific education. A letter to Huygens concerning Mariotte's nomination to the Académie suggests that he was self-taught.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
Indirect evidence places him as titular abbot and prior of St. Martin de Beaumont sur Vingeanne. Mariotte's precise ecclesiastical standing is uncertain. He did take the tonsure in 1634.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Physics, Mechanics, Optics
Subordinate: Botany, Hydraulics, Meteorology
Mariotte's work on plant physiology drew the attention of the Académie soon after its founding in 1666. He held the "singular doctrine" that sap circulated through plants in a manner analogous to the circulation of blood in animals.
Mariotte had a wide range of interests including mathematics, geometrical optics, hydrostatics, and the laws of impact. At the Académie he participated in several of the investigations both inside and outside his area of speciality. He participated in the installation of the the hydraulic system at Versailles and directed some important hydraulic experiments at the chateau de Condé in Chantilly and at the Observatory. He conducted experiments on the refraction of light, barometric changes, and falling bodies among many others. With Cassini and Picard he examined a work on navigation and the problem of longitude. The strength of his work was in his ability to recognize the importance of results, confirming them by new and careful experiments, and drawing out the implications of the results.
In 1668 he wrote, Nouvelle découverte touchant la veue, on optics and his experiments to locate the blind spot in vision. Traité de la percussion ou choc des corps (1673), became a standard work on the subject of laws of inelastic and elastic impact. Mariotte's law (i.e., Boyle's Law) appeared in his De la nature de l'air (1679) in which he described the isothermal behavior of an enclosed mass of air. Mariotte's final work published posthumously (1686), Traité du mouvement des eaux et des autres corps fluides, treated the theory of the motion of bodies in a resisting medium using natural springs, artificial fountains, and the flow of water through pipes as his topic.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Unknown, Government
Secondary: Church Life
He had to live somehow before he became part of the Académie.
Mariotte spent the majority of his time conducting experiments and investigations for the Académie. It is possible that his position at the abby provided some income.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Government Official
As a member of the Académie he was involved in the investigations for waterworks at Versailles and various other royal interests from examining navigational works to projectile motion. I'd like to know more about that project at Versailles, but it is highly unlikely that any such task could have remained outside the system of patronage.
Colbert instructed a group of the members to conduct research on the problems of ballistics. Again I would like to know more, but it sounds once more like patronage.
In 1679 Carcavi proposed that a complete work on optics be made by Mariotte, Picard, and La Hire. This one doesn't sound like patronage.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Hydraulics, Navigation, Military Engineering, Instruments
In 1672 Mariotte published, Traité du nivellement, a work describing a new form of level using the surface of free-standing water as the horizontal reference and employing a reflection mark on the sight stick to gain greater accuracy in sighting. He gave full instructions for the instrument's use and discussed its accuracy with respect to other levels.
See also above.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Académie Royal des Sciences, 1666-1684
Mariotte entered the Académie as a physicist but was soon sharing in the work of the mathematicians. His work was known to the Royal Soiety and cited in Newton's Principia. Mariotte recognized the important role that international cooperation could play in science. He sent for information and shared information with societies in London, Warsaw, Constantinople, and in Spain and Italy.
  1. Pierre Costabel, Mariotte savant and philosophe, (Paris, 1986).
  2. B. Davies, "Edme Mariotte," Physics Education, 9 (1974), 275-8.
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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