Monday, November 16, 2009

D'Alembert's Dream

The smug looking fellow above is our 91st hero of the day, one Jean le Rond d'Alembert born this day 1717 in Paris, France. M. d'Alembert had a rough start to life, he was born the illegitimate son of a female author, and a artillery officer whom did not want his parentage of d'Alembert known. In fact, he got his name from the church upon which he mother deposited him a couple of days after his birth it being called St. Jean-le-Rond de Paris church. A wonderful start to a life, being dumped on the church steps like the rubbish you would haul off to the bin. Things soon got better (they couldn't have got too much worse) he was adopted by the wife of a glazier, and dear, old papa decided to step up to the plate, and fund his baby boy's education. Then things got even better dear dad kicked the bucket when d'Alembert was only nine, and left him an annuity of 1200 livres per year. That education was put to good use, d'Alembert made serious contributions to the fields of wave theory, fluid dynamics (even proposing the d'Alembert paradox which I can not even begin to explain), and was a co-author, with Denis Dierdot, of the Encyclopédie. He authored over a thousand articles for the Encyclopdie, and managed to get himself elected to the Académie des Sciences. He was a frequent guests at numerous Paris salons, one of which was the famous one kept by Mlle de Lespinasse with whom he formed a life long relationship. He even came up with a system for gambling (that was sadly based on a incorrect theory) that of decreasing one's bet the more one wins and increasing one's bet the more one loses is therefore called the D'Alembert system. So for those thousand articles, and numerous other contributions to science, and math that sail over my head, and for being the subject of a lovely discourse written by Dierdot, Jean le Rond d'Alembert (November 16th, 1717- October 29th, 1783, at the age of 66 of a bladder illness), you are my hero of the day.

1 comment:

Phil said...

d'Alembert paradox

amazing stuff, although I cannot understand it - good blog though