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Jean le Rond d'Alembert

"d'Alembert" redirects here. For other uses, see d'Alembert (disambiguation).
Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert
Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert, pastel by Maurice Quentin de La Tour
Born (1717-11-16)16 November 1717
Died 29 October 1783(1783-10-29) (aged 65)
Nationality French
Fields Mathematics
Alma mater University of Paris
Doctoral advisor Template:If empty
Notable students Pierre-Simon Laplace
Known for D'Alembert criterion
D'Alembert force
D'Alembert's form of the principle of virtual work
D'Alembert's formula
D'Alembert equation
D'Alembert operator
D'Alembert's paradox
D'Alembert's principle
D'Alembert system
D'Alembert–Euler condition
Tree of Diderot and d'Alembert
Cauchy–Riemann equations
Fluid mechanics
Three-body problem
Notable awards Fellow of the Royal Society
Follow of the Institut de France

Jean-Baptiste le Rond d'Alembert (/ˌdæləmˈbɛər/;[1] Template:IPA-fr; 16 November 1717 – 29 October 1783) was a French mathematician, mechanician, physicist, philosopher, and music theorist. Until 1759 he was also co-editor with Denis Diderot of the Encyclopédie. D'Alembert's formula for obtaining solutions to the wave equation is named after him.[2] The wave equation is sometimes referred to as d'Alembert's equation.

Early years

Born in Paris, d'Alembert was the illegitimate child of the writer Claudine Guérin de Tencin and the chevalier Louis-Camus Destouches, an artillery officer. Destouches was abroad at the time of d'Alembert's birth, and a couple of days after birth his mother left him on the steps of the Saint-Jean-le-Rond de Paris church. According to custom, he was named after the patron saint of the church. D'Alembert was placed in an orphanage for found children, but his father found him and placed him with the wife of a glazier, Madame Rousseau, with whom he lived for nearly 50 years.[3] Destouches secretly paid for the education of Jean le Rond, but did not want his paternity officially recognized.

Studies and adult life

D'Alembert first attended a private school. The chevalier Destouches left d'Alembert an annuity of 1200 livres on his death in 1726. Under the influence of the Destouches family, at the age of twelve d'Alembert entered the Jansenist Collège des Quatre-Nations (the institution was also known under the name "Collège Mazarin"). Here he studied philosophy, law, and the arts, graduating as baccalauréat en arts in 1735. In his later life, D'Alembert scorned the Cartesian principles he had been taught by the Jansenists: "physical promotion, innate ideas and the vortices".

The Jansenists steered D'Alembert toward an ecclesiastical career, attempting to deter him from pursuits such as poetry and mathematics. Theology was, however, "rather unsubstantial fodder" for d'Alembert. He entered law school for two years, and was nominated avocat in 1738.

He was also interested in medicine and mathematics. Jean was first registered under the name Daremberg, but later changed it to d'Alembert. The name "d'Alembert" was proposed by Johann Heinrich Lambert for a suspected (but non-existent) moon of Venus.[citation needed]