Mathematician:Pierre-Simon de Laplace

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French mathematician and astronomer whose work greatly influenced the development of the mathematics governing astronomy.

Pioneered the field of mathematical physics.

Considered himself to be the greatest mathematician in France.

Known within his lifetime as "the Newton of France".

Often criticised by those who believe that his apparently insincere political views, and tendency to change sides to maximise his personal advantage, are a character flaw.

Others believe that his generous spirit, and willingness to help and encourage younger scientists, are of greater importance.




  • Born: 23 March 1749 in Beaumont-en-Auge, Normandy, France
  • Died: 5 March 1827 in Paris, France

Theorems and Definitions

Results named for Pierre-Simon de Laplace can be found here.

Definitions of concepts named for Pierre-Simon de Laplace can be found here.


His complete works have been published as:

  • Œuvres complètes de Laplace, 14 volumes (published 1878 – 1912). However, this does not include his 1784: Théorie du movement et de la figure elliptique des planètes.

Also known as

Some sources report his name as Pierre Simon de Laplace (that is, without the hyphen).

Notable Quotes

Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis.
-- to Napoleon, who had questioned the fact that God was not mentioned in Mécanique Céleste

At bottom, the theory of probability is only common sense reduced to calculation; it makes us appreciate with exactitude what reasonable minds feel by a sort of instinct, often without being able to account for it ... It is remarkable that [this] science, which originated in the consideration of games of chance, should have become the most important object of human knowledge.
-- Introduction to Théorie Analytique des Probabilités
-- Quoted as epigraph to 1937: Eric Temple Bell: Men of Mathematics: Chapter $\text{V}$

[This very simplicity] is the reason for our not being sufficiently aware how much admiration it deserves.
-- on the system of Arabic numerals

Critical View

Laplace is the great example of the wisdom of directing all of one's efforts to a single central objective worthy of the best a man has in him.
-- Eric Temple Bell