Sylvestre François Lacroix

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Sylvestre François Lacroix

Sylvestre François Lacroix (April 28, 1765, Paris – May 24, 1843, Paris) was a French mathematician.

He was born in Paris, and was raised in a poor family who still managed to obtain a good education for their son. He displayed a particular talent for mathematics, calculating the motions of the planets by the age of 14. In 1782 at the age of 17 he became an instructor in mathematics at the École Gardes de Marine in Rochefort, France. He returned to Paris and taught courses in astronomy and mathematics at the Lycée. In 1787 he was the co-winner of that year's Grand Prix of the French Académie des Sciences, but was never awarded the prize. Sylvestre married Marie Nicole Sophie Arcambal. When the Lycée was abolished, he again moved to the provinces.

In Besançon, from 1788, he taught course in mathematics, physics, and chemistry at the École d'Artillerie. In 1793 he became examiner of the Artillery Corps, replacing Pierre-Simon Laplace in the post. By 1794 he was aiding his old instructor, Gaspard Monge, in creating material for a course on descriptive geometry. In 1799 he was appointed professor at the École Polytechnique. Lacroix produced most of his texts for the sake of improving his courses. The same year he was voted into the newly formed Institut National des Sciences et des Arts. In 1812 he began teaching at the Collège de France, and was appointed chair of mathematics in 1815.

During his career he produced a number of important textbooks in mathematics. Translations of these books into the English language were used in British universities, and the books remained in circulation for nearly 50 years. In 1812 Babbage set up The Analytical Society for the translation of Differential and Integral Calculus and the book was translated into English in 1816 by George Peacock.1

Lacroix crater on the Moon was named for him.

Bibliography

  • Eléments de géométrie déscriptive
  • Traité du calcul différentiel et du calcul intégral, Chez Courcier, Paris, 1797-1798.
    • (Revised in 1802 to a shortened version for classroom use. The shortened version was published in nine editions between 1802 and 1881.)
  • Complément des Élémens d'algèbre, a l'usage de l'École centrale des quatre-nations, Chez Courcier, Paris, 1804.
  • Traité élémentaire de calcul des probabilités, Paris, Mallet-Bachelier.
  • Essais sur L'Enseignement en Général, et sur celui des Mathématiques en Particulier, 1816, Libraire pur les Mathématiques.

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