Chapter

Early life

I.S. Glass

in Nicolas-Louis De La Caille, Astronomer and Geodesist

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780199668403
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191749315 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199668403.003.0002
Early life

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La Caille was educated to become a priest at the desire of his father. However, he refused ordination and turned to astronomy. He trained at the Paris Observatory under Jacques Cassini. At the time, Newtonianism was gradually triumphing over Cartesian theories. He conducted a geodetic expedition within France and confirmed that the earth is a flattened ellipsoid. Appointed a professor at the Mazarin College, his teaching was strongly pro-Newtonian. His lifelong ambition was to refine celestial positions. The discoveries of Bradley led to new levels of accuracy in this field. La Caille studied the orbits of the earth and planets besides eclipses and comets. The need for southern data to complement the northern sky catalogues and to determine planetary distances led him to propose observations in the southern hemisphere.

Keywords: Paris Observatory; Cassinis; Maupertuis; Voltaire; Newtonianism; geodesy; surveying; Royal Academy of Sciences; Mazarin College; astrometry; Bradley

Chapter.  12107 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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