Maupertuis, Pierre Louis Moreau de

Maupertuis, Pierre Louis Moreau de

(pyĕr lwē môrō` də mōpĕrtüē`), 1698–1759, French mathematician and astronomer. For his skillful support of Newton's theory he was admitted to the Royal Society of London in 1728. He headed (1736–37) an expedition of academicians to Lapland, where he confirmed Newton's theory of the flattening of the earth at the poles. In 1740 he went to Berlin upon the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia, who later placed him in charge of the new academy. Besides his numerous astronomical writings, including Discours sur la figure des astres (1732) and Discours sur la parallaxe de la lune (1741), he wrote a work setting forth a mechanistic view of the universe, Essai de cosmologie (1750), and several biological studies. Quarrels, particularly with Samuel Koenig and Voltaire (who satirized him in several writings, especially Diatribe du Docteur Akakia), and illness complicated his later years.

Maupertuis, Pierre Louis Moreau de


Born July 17, 1698, in St. Malo; died July 27, 1759, in Basel. French scientist. Member of the Paris Academy of Sciences (1743).

Maupertuis served in the French Army from 1718 to 1722. He was connected with the Paris Academy of Sciences from 1723. In 1741 he emigrated to Berlin and became president of the Berlin Academy of Sciences in 1745. In 1736–37 he headed the so-called Lapland expedition to Finland, whose purpose was to measure the length of a meridian degree. Its results demonstrated that the earth is a spheroid flattened at the poles. He was the first to formulate what is now called the principle of least action (1740). Maupertuis was the author of works on mathematics, astronomy, geography, biology, and philosophy.


La Figure de la terre. Paris, 1738.
Oeuvres, 2nd ed., vols. 1–4. Lyon, 1756.


Angliviel, L. de la Beaumelle. Vie de Maupertuis. Paris, 1856.
Brunei, P. Maupertuis, vol. 1; Etude biographique; vol. 2: L’Oeuvre et sa place dans la pensée scientifique et philosophique du XVIII siècle. Paris, 1929.
Callot, E. Maupertuis: Le savant et le philosophe. Paris, 1964.
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