The Galileo Project
site map

Vernier, Pierre

1. Dates
Born: Ornans, Franche-Comté, 19 August 1584
Died: Ornans, 14 September 1638
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 54
2. Father
Occupation: Government Official
Vernier's father was a castellan of the chateau of Ornans. This was a governmental establishment. He was a lawyer by training and probably an engineer.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: French (I list this as France, though it was in the. Franche-Comté).
Career: French
Death: French
4. Education
Schooling: No University
At an early age he studied the writings of contemporary scientists and learned how measuring instruments worked. He was particularly attentive to the works of Clavius and Brahe. His father's inclination toward mathematics gave Vernier a solid instruction and initiated him to their applications.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic (by assumption)
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Engineering, Instrumentation
With his father he made a map of the Franche-Comté area. His reading of the works of Nunez, Clavius, and Brahe and his experience in surveying with his father prompted him to seek a new way of reading off the angles on surveying instruments.
The Vernier scale improved the work of Nunez, Clavius, and Curtius by replacing a series of static scales with a mobile concentric segment. It was not until the start of the eighteenth century that technology caught up with Vernier's scale and the vernier began to be used. Vernier's name was not associated with his invention until the middle of the century.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Engineering, Government
He worked as a military engineer for the Hapsburgs.
By 1622 he was already a tax official for Dole and Besancon. In 1622 he had acquired a reputation as an excellent engineer and received the position as conseiller et général des monnaies for the Count of Burgundy. He held this position until his death in 1638. In the same year he was named capitain of the chateau d'Ornans, a position which he also held until his death. In addition to all these positions he became a conseiller du roi. The following year he received the honorary title of citizen from the city of Besancon in recognition of his service in placing the city in a state of defense from the bands of Ernest von Mansfield.
After his voyage to Brussels to present his invention to Isabelle-Claire-Eugenie, the infanta of Spain, he returned to the Franche-Comté (1631) and spent the remainder of his life working on the fortifications of various cities.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat
From 1622 until his death he held several royal offices. He dedicated his treatise on the quadrant to the Archduchess, to whom he presented his invention (a copper one made for her) in 1631. It was upon the recommendations of Philippe Chifflet, who enjoyed several benefices from the Archduchess, and Ferdinand LeBlanc, colonel of the regiment of Amont, that Vernier undertook his voyage to Brussels to present his invention to the Hapsburg court.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Cartography, Military Engineering, Instruments, Architecture
Vernier replaced the series of static scales with a mobile concentric segment. This scale was not attributed to him until the middle of the eighteenth century.
He designed a building in Dole.
See also above.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. Julien Feuvrier, "L'ingenieur Pierre Vernier à Dole," Proces-verbaux et mémoires de l'Académie des sciences, belles-lettres et arts de Besancon, 1912, pp. 293-302.
  2. Henri Michel, "Le 'vernier' et son inventeur Pierre Vernier d'Ornans," Mémoires de la Société d'émulation du Doubs, 8th series, 8 (1913), 310-73.
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
Last updated
Home | Galileo | Biography | Chronology | Family | Portraits |
Science | Christianity | Library | About | Site Map | Search

Please note: We will not answer copyright requests.
See the copyright page for more information.