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Sauveur, Joseph

1. Dates
Born: La Fleche, 24 Mar. 1653
Died: Paris, 9 July 1716
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 63
2. Father
Occupation: Lawyer
His father was a notary.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: Paris
He was mute until the age of seven and then only slowly developed control over his speaking. He first attended the Jesuit school of La Fleche, where arithmetic intrigued him. In 1670 he went to Paris, where he studied mathematics and medicine, and attended the physical lectures of Jacques Rohault. His uncle, a canon of Tournus, agreed to provide a pension for Sauveur to study theology and philosophy. As soon as Sauveur's interests turned away from the ecclesiastical path the pension was withdrawn. Apparently he did not earn a B.A.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Physics, Music
He was influential as a teacher of practical mathematics. He prepared tables for simple calculations and converting weights and measures. In 1681, he conducted hydrological experiments with Mariotte at Chantilly. While gathering information to write about fortifications, he joined practice with theory at Mons during the seige in 1691.
At the request of the Marquis de Dangeau he undertook the investigation of winning at Bassette, a game of chance. He presented his results at court and published them in the Journal des Scavans.
He introduced the current meaning of the term acoustics in his report to the Académie in 1700. His first work on the physics of vibration, presented to the Paris Academy in 1700, concerned the determination of absolute frequency. Later, in the work presented in 1713, he derived the frequency of a string theoretically. Among his interests, the subject of harmonics proved the most important for later developments--in mathematics, physics, and music. Through him and the Academy the ideas about harmonics became well known in the early eighteenth century. Among his works on acoustics are Determination d'un son fixe (1702) and Application des sons harmonique (1707).
7. Means of Support
Primary: Schoolmastering, Academia, Government
Secondary: Patronage
After losing his pension (from his uncle), he started teaching mathematics and by 1680 he was a well-known teacher and a tutor at the court of Louis XIV.
In 1686 he obtained the chair of mathematics at the Collège Royal.
In 1696 he became a member of the Academy of Sciences.
In 1703 he became examiner for the Engineering Corps.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Scientist, Aristrocrat
He was a tutor at the court of Louis XIV.
Vauban, marshall of France, proposed Sauveur for examiner of the Corps of Engineers. The King agreed and honored Sauveur with a pension.
I assume that something I call patronage was involved in his investigation of games of chance for the Marquis de Dangeau.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Applied Mathematics, Military Engineering
In 1691 he joined the practice and theory of fortifications during the seige of Mons.
I list his work on practical computations here.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Académie Royal des Sciences, 1696-1716
  1. Fontenelle, "Éloge", in Histoire de l'Académie royale des sciences, 1716, (Paris, 1718), 79-87. Q46.A16 1716 Hoefer, Nouvelle biographie générale, (Paris, 1857-66).
  2. Niels Nielsen, Géometres francais du dix-huitieme siècle, (Copenhagen, 1935), pp. 403-10. QA28.N65
  3. V.V. Raman, "J. Sauveur, the forgotten founder of acoustics," Physics Teacher, 11 (1973), 161-3. QC30.A2
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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