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Polinière, Pierre

1. Dates
Born: Coulonces (Normandy), 8 Sept. 1671
Died: Coulonces, 9 Feb. 1734
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 63
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Caen; Paris, M.D.
He studied humanities at the University of Caen and, later, philosophy at the University of Paris, where, according to Michaud, he studied mathematics under Varignon. His interests in science led him to study mathematics, physics, natural history, geography, and chemistry.
He apparently received a medical degree. I assume a B.A. or its equivalent.
In the 1690's his interests turned toward medicine and natural philosophy.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
His uncle was a great preacher and even preached in front of Louis XIV.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Physics, Natural Philosophy
Subordinate: Electricity
He was a staunch believer that conclusions about causes must be based on experimentation. He was one of the first in France to present public lectures on experimental natural philosophy.
He made independent discoveries in electroluminescence and was one of the earliest on the continent to advocate Newton's theory of color.
He made his most significant contribution as a popularizer of experimental natural philosophy. He began to demonstrate experiments in courses of philosophy in Paris in 1696. He started to compile these experiments in 1701. The results of his efforts was the work, Experiences de physique (Paris, 1709), containing 100 carefully detailed experiments. The work was very popular and went through 5 editions. Half of the experiments dealt with the elasticity of air. The remaining experiments were concerned with chemistry, hydrostatics, acoustics, magnetism, light and colors, and selected aspects of physiology.
In 1706 he discovered the "new phosphor" by rubbing an evacuated glass globe with the hand.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Schoolmastering
He devoted his energies to the pursuit and popularization of experimental philosophy. He worked hard to perfect his early experiments. Sometime around the turn of the century (c. 1696) he began to offer lectures and demonstrations of experiments, at the Collège d'Harcourt and at other colleges of the University of Paris. He continued to offer his course to both students and the educated public until his death. He also functioned as a tutor.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Scientist, Government Official, Aristrocrat
His success brought him to the attention of the court. In 1722 he presented a series of experiments before young Louis XV.
Fontenelle was a vocal supporter of his and entrusted to him the education of his nephew.
Several men of state entrusted to him the education of their sons.
He was the member the Société des Arts of Louis de Bourbon-Condé, Count of Clermont.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
Note the Société des Arts above.
  1. "Abregé de la vie de M. Polinière," in the 4th and 5th eds. of Experience de physique, (Paris, 1734, 1741). List 84 Reel 16.
  2. Polinière's preface to earlier eds. of the same work, (Paris, 1709). Microprint Q111.l2 no. P102
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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