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Saurin, Joseph

1. Dates
Born: Courthezon, Vaucluse, 1 Sept. 1659
Died: Paris, 29 Dec. 1737
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 78
2. Father
Occupation: Cleric
His father was a Calvinist minister of Grenoble.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French, Swiss
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: No University
He was educated at home. After embracing Catholicism he started a new career in mathematics. He studied mathematics, but dthere is no mention of any formal university training. Among his friends were Varignon, l'Hopital, and Malebranche.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Calvinist, Catholic (after 1690)
He entered the Calvinist ministry in 1684 as curate of Eure. Outspoken in the pulpit, he soon had to take refuge in Switzerland. No less combative in exile, he refused at first to sign the Consensus of Geneva (1685). The pressure brought on him as a result apparently weakened his Calvinist persuasion. In 1690 he embraced Roman Catholicism.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics, Mechanics
He made no original contribution to mathematics. Firmly committed to the new infinitesimal calculus, he explored the limits and possibilities of its methods and defended it against criticism based on lack of understanding. In 1702 he was involved in a dispute with Rolle over the calculus.
He provided neat algebraic demonstrations of Huygens's theorem on centrifugal force, and defended Huygens's theory of the pendulum.
Many of his works appeared in the Mémoires of the Académie from 1707-31.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Schoolmastering, Government, Patronage
Secondary: Church Life
He became curate (Calvinist) of Eure in 1684, and soon took refuge in Switzerland, where he was pastor of Bercher, Yverdon.
In 1690 he settled in Paris, where he studied and then taught mathematics, and was mathematical editor for the Journal des scavans.
In 1707 he became pensionnaire géometre of the Académie des sciences.
8. Patronage
Types: Eccesiastic Official, Court Official
Bishop Bossuet of Meaux aided Saurin in his decision to convert. He presented Saurin to the King who provided Saurin with a pension.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Académie Royal des Sciences, 1707
By 1702, as a mathematical editor for the Journal des scavans, he was involved in disputes, most notably with Rolle, over infinitesimal calculus. Failing to get a satisfactory response from Rolle, he appealed to the Academy, of which Rolle was a member. The Academy avoided a direct decision in favor of an outsider by naming him an élève géometre in March 1707 and a full pensionnaire géometre in May 1707.
  1. Fontenelle, "Eloge de M. Saurin," in Histoire de l'Académie royale des sciences, 1737, 110-20. Q46.A6 1737 Joseph Bertrand, L'Académie des sciences et les académiciens de 1666 à 1793, (Paris, 1869), 242-7.
  2. Didot, Nouvelle biographie générale. CT143.H6RF Niels Nielsen, Géometres francais du dix-huitieme siècle, (Copenhagen, 1935), pp. 397-402. QA28.N65
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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