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Rolle, Michel

1. Dates
Born: Ambert (Basse-Auverne) 21 Apr. 1652
Died: Paris, 8 Nov. 1719
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 67
2. Father
Occupation: Merchant
His father was a shopkeeper.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: No University
He received only a very elementary education. Later he taught himself algebra and Diophantine analysis.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
Although his reputation rested on his skill in Diophantine analysis, his favorite area was the algebra of equations. In his Traité d'algèbre, which has remained famous, he used the method of "cascades" to separate the roots of an algebraic equation. He also displayed a certain vigor in the field of Cartesian geometry.
He was a skillful algebraist who broke with the Cartesian techniques and opposed the infinitesimal analysis. His opposition was beneficial to the development of the study. In 1706 he finally reconciled himself to the value of the new techniques of the infinitesimal analysis.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Miscellaneous, Patronage, Government
After his elementary education, he worked as a transcriber for a notary and then for various attorneys in his native region. I list this under Miscellaneous.
In 1675 he moved to Paris, working as master scribe and reckoner.
After 1682, Colbert obtained for him a reward and a pension. Later he became tutor of the fourth son of the minister Louvois.
He received an administrative post in the ministry of war, from which he soon resigned.
1699-1719, pensionnaire géometre.
8. Patronage
Type: Government Official
In 1682 he gave an elegant solution to a difficult problem publicly posed by Ozanam. This event brought him public recognition. Colbert took an interest in him and obtained a reward and a pension for him.
He also enjoyed the patronage of minister Louvois. He gave lessons in mathematics to the minister's forth son, abbé de Louvois. He even received an administrative post in the ministry of war. Though this position in the minsitry of war was more financially rewarding and could have taken him farther in the government, Rolle felt unable to devote enough time to his post and his position at the Académie.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Académie Royal des Sciences, 1685-1719
He became élève astronome in 1685. When the Académie reorganized Rolle became a pensionnaire géometre (1699), which assured him a regular salary.
  1. Fontenelle, "Eloge de Rolle", in Histoire de l'Académie royale des sciences, 1719. Q46.A16 1719 Hoefer, Nouvelle biographie générale, (Paris, 1857-66).
  2. Niels Nielsen, Géometres francais du dix-huitieme siècle, (Copenhagen, 1935), pp. 382-90. QA28.N65
  3. Gino Loria, Storia delle mathematiche, 2nd ed., (Milan, 1950), pp. 670-3. QA26.L8
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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