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Sluse, René-Francois de

1. Dates
Born: Vise, Belgium, 2 July 1622
Died: Liège, 19 March 1685
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 63
2. Father
Occupation: Gentry, Lawyer
Sluse came from a petit noble family. His father was a notary and a clerk of the court. His maternal uncle, Gualthere Waltheri had a doctorate in law and was the secretary of the papal briefs to Innocent X and Alexander VII. His other maternal uncle, Jean Waltheri, was canon and later dean of the collegial church of Vise.
The family is called well-to-do. Considering everything above, I think they had to have been wealthy.
3. Nationality
Birth: Belgian Area
Career: Belgian Area
Death: Belgian Area
4. Education
Schooling: Louvain; Sapienza (Rome), Ll.D.
He attended the University of Louvain from 1638 to 1642. He travelled to Rome in 1642 and the following year he received his doctorate in law from the University of Sapienza. He remained in Rome for several more years becoming proficient in Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Syriac, and studying astronomy and mathematics.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
His well-to-do family had destined him to an ecclesiastical career. Sluse took the tonsure in 1631. In 1650 he received a canonry in the collegial chapter of Vise. He renounced this benefice which then was given to his brother Pierre. Sluse accepted a prebend in the chapter of St. Lambert in Liège. His understanding in law and his great knowledge brought him many high positions within the Church.
1655-director of the chapter.
1659-member of the privy council of the Bishop of Liege.
1666-abbé of Amay.
1676-vice provost of the Cathedral.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
Subordinate: Astronomy, Physics, Natural History
Sluse's administrative success in Liège separated him from the intellectual life he had known in Rome. He had made a thorough study of Cavalieri and Torricelli on the geometry of the indivisible. At Liège his only means of communication was his extensive correspondence. Early in his career he published Mesolabium, a work on geometrical construction in which he discussed the cubature of various solids and the solutions to third and fourth degree equations. He perfected the methods of Descartes and Fermat for drawing tangents and determining the maximum and minimum values. He generalized the method for solutions of equations through the construction of roots by means of curves.
His correspondence introduced him to the problem of the cycloid and the theories of games of chance. With Huygens he published Descartes' last work.
Although Sluse's work was primarily in mathematics, he wrote on astronomy, physics, natural history, history, and of course on theological issues in his adminstrative work.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life
Sluse held many high positions during his ecclesiastical career.
The fact that his family destined him for the church leads me to conclude that he was a younger son who did not inherit wealth.
8. Patronage
Type: Eccesiastic Official
Sluse was appointed to his ecclesiastical posts by Innocent X. It appears obvious that his family's position and influence did not hurt.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Royal Society, 1674-85
In order to keep his scientific interests alive he conducted extensive correspondence with several members of the scientific community, Pascal, Huygens, Oldenburg, Wallis, Ricci, Dati, Lambecius, and Prince Leopold of Tuscany.
  1. C. Le Paige, "Correspondence de René Francois de Sluse publiée pour le premiere fois," Bulletino di bibliografia e di storia delle scienze matematiche e fisiche, 17 (1884), 494-726.
  2. C. Le Paige, "Notes pour servir a l'histoire des mathematiques dans l'ancien pays de Liège," Bulletin de l'Institut archeologique liègeois, 21 (1890), 457-65 .
  3. F. van Hulst, René Sluse, (Liège, 1842).
  4. Etienne Helin et al., "René-Francois de Sluse (1622-1685)," Actes du Colloque international Amay-Liège-Visi, 20-22 mais 1985, Buttetin de la Société royale des sciences de Liège, 55 (1986), 1-269.
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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