Laplace, Pierre-Simon, marquis de


Laplace, Pierre-Simon, marquis de

biographical name

(born March 23, 1749, Beaumount-en-Auge, France—died March 5, 1827, Paris) French mathematician, astronomer, and physicist. He is best known for his investigations into the stability of the solar system and the theory of magnetic, electrical, and heat wave propagation. In his major lifework he applied Newtonian gravitational theory to the solar system to explain deviations of the planets from the orbits predicted by the theory (1773). Newton believed that only divine intervention could explain the solar system's equilibrium, but Laplace established a mathematical basis for it, the most important advance in physical astronomy since Newton. He continued to work on elucidating planetary perturbations through the 1780s. A work published in 1796 included his nebular hypothesis, which attributed the origin of the solar system to the cooling and contracting of a gaseous nebula, a theory that strongly influenced future thought on planetary origins. See also Laplace transform; Laplace's equation.

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