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Jérôme Lalande

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Title: Jérôme Lalande  
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Subject: Former constellations, Nicole-Reine Lepaute, André-Jacques Garnerin, Nicolas-Louis de Lacaille, Astronomical unit
Collection: 1732 Births, 1807 Deaths, 18Th-Century Astronomers, 18Th-Century French People, 19Th-Century Astronomers, 19Th-Century French People, Burials at Père Lachaise Cemetery, Fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Fellows of the Royal Society, French Astronomers, French Freemasons, Honorary Members of the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences, Les Neuf Sœurs, Members of the French Academy of Sciences, Members of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Members of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, People from Bourg-En-Bresse
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Jérôme Lalande

Jérôme Lalande
Jérôme Lalande
Born (1732-07-11)11 July 1732
Died 4 April 1807(1807-04-04) (aged 74)
Nationality French
Fields Astronomy
Institutions Paris observatory
Doctoral advisor Joseph-Nicolas Delisle
Pierre Charles Le Monnier
Doctoral students Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre

Joseph Jérôme Lefrançois de Lalande (French: ; 11 July 1732 – 4 April 1807) was a French astronomer, freemason and writer.


  • Biography 1
  • Near discovery of Neptune 2
  • Awards and recognition 3
  • Notable works 4
  • See also 5
  • References 6
  • Further reading 7
  • External links 8


Lalande was born at Bourg-en-Bresse (now in the département of Ain) to Pierre Lefrançois and Marie‐Anne‐Gabrielle Monchinet.[1] His parents sent him to Paris to study law, but as a result of lodging in the Hôtel Cluny, where Delisle had his observatory, he was drawn to astronomy, and became the zealous and favoured pupil of both Delisle and Pierre Charles Le Monnier. Having completed his legal studies, he was about to return to Bourg to practise as an advocate, when Lemonnier obtained permission to send him to Berlin, to make observations on the lunar parallax in concert with those of Lacaille at the Cape of Good Hope.

Quarter of a circle by Jonathan Sisson used by Jérôme de Lalande to measure the distance between the earth and the moon in 1751.

The successful execution of this task obtained for him, before he was twenty-one, admission to the Academy of Berlin, as well as his election as an adjunct astronomer to the French Academy of Sciences. He now devoted himself to the improvement of the planetary theory, publishing in 1759 corrected edition of Edmond Halley's tables, with a history of Halley's Comet whose return in that year he had helped Alexis Clairaut to calculate. In 1762 Delisle resigned the chair of astronomy in the Collège de France in Lalande's favour. The duties were discharged by Lalande for forty-six years. His house became an astronomical seminary, and amongst his pupils were Delambre, Giuseppe Piazzi, Pierre Méchain, and his own nephew Michel Lalande. By his publications in connection with the transit of Venus of 1769 he won great fame. However, his difficult personality lost him some popularity.

In 1766, Lalande with Helvetius founded "Les Sciences" lodge in Paris, and had its recongnition from Grand Orient de France in 1772.[2] In 1776, he changed its name to Les Neuf Soeurs, and managed Benjamin Franklin to be chosen as the first worshifull master.[3]

Although his investigations were conducted with diligence rather than genius, Lalande's career was an eminent one. As a lecturer and writer he helped popularise astronomy. His planetary tables, into which he introduced corrections for mutual perturbations, were the best available up to the end of the 18th century. In 1801 he endowed the Lalande Prize, administered by the French Academy of Sciences, for advances in astronomy. Pierre-Antoine Véron, the young astronomer who for the first time in history determined the size of the Pacific Ocean from east to west, was Lalande's disciple.[4]

Near discovery of Neptune

In February 1847 Sears C. Walker of the U.S. Naval Observatory was searching historical records and surveys for possible prediscovery sightings of the planet Neptune that had been discovered the year before. He found that observations made by Lalande's staff in 1795 were in the direction of Neptune's position in the sky at that time and that Neptune might appear in the observation records. On 8 May and again on 10 May 1795 a star was observed and recorded with uncertainty noted on its position with a colon, this notation could also indicate an observing error so it was not until the original records of the observatory were reviewed that it was established with certainty that the object was Neptune and the position error between the two nights was due to the planet's motion across the sky.[5] The discovery of these records of Neptune's position in 1795 led to a better calculation of the planet's orbit.[6]

Awards and recognition

Notable works

  • Traité d'astronomie (2 vols., 1764 enlarged. edition, 4 vols., 1771–1781; 3rd ed., 3 vols., 1792)
  • Histoire Céleste Française (1801), giving the places of 47,390 stars
  • Bibliographie astronomique (1803), with a history of astronomy from 1780 to 1802
  • Astronomie des dames (1785)
  • Abrégé de navigation (1793)
  • Voyage d'un françois en Italie (1769), a valuable record of his travel in 1765–1766.
  • Journal d'un voyage en Angleterre (1763) (English translation 2002, 2014 including two biographies of Lalande and an examination of the structure of the diary)Diary of a Trip to England

He communicated more than one hundred and fifty papers to the French Academy of Sciences, edited the Connoissance de temps (1759–1774), and again (1794–1807), and wrote the concluding two volumes of the 2nd edition of Montucla's Histoire des mathématiques (1802).

See also


  1. ^ Hockey, Thomas (2009). The Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers.  
  2. ^ Dictionnaire universel de la Franc-maçonnerie; p. 501 (Larousse ed. 2011)
  3. ^ Une loge maçonnique d'avant 1789: la R. L. Les neuf sœurs (Louis Amiable - ed. Baillière, 1897)
  4. ^ The Men from Across La Manche: French Voyages, 1660-1790Seymour Chapin,
  5. ^ Fred William Price (2000). The planet observer's handbook.  
  6. ^ "USNO - Our Command History".  
  7. ^ "Book of Members, 1780–2010: Chapter B" (PDF). American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 

Further reading

  • Mémoires de l'Institut, VIII (1807) (JBJ Delambre)
  • J-B Delambre: Histoire de l'astronomie au XVIIIe siècle, p. 547
  • Magazin encyclopédique, II, 288 (1810) (Mme de Salm);
  • JS Bailly, Histoire de l'astronomie moderne, t. III, (ed. 1785)
  • J Mädler: Geschichte der Himmelskunde II, 141
  • R Wolf, Geschichte der Astronomie
  • JJ Lalande, Bibliographie astronomique p. 428
  • JC Poggendorff, Biographisch-lit. Handwörterbuch
  • Maximilien Marie: Histoire des sciences mathématiques et physiques IX, 35.
  • Jérôme Lalande at the Mathematics Genealogy Project

External links

  • Abrégé de navigation (pdf)
  • Portrait of Jerome Lalande from the Lick Observatory Records Digital Archive, UC Santa Cruz Library's Digital Collections


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