LAPLACE, Pierre Simon. Autograph letter signed ("Laplace") to Jean-Baptiste Biot (1774-1862), 30 germinal Year VII [19 April 1799]. 1 page, 8vo, integral autograph address leaf, small stain away from text, remnants of tipping on address leaf, seal hole expertly repaired.
LAPLACE SENDS PROOFS OF HIS SEMINAL WORK TO A FELLOW SCIENTIST
"IT'S WITH GREAT PLEASURE, CITIZEN, THAT I SEND YOU A COPY OF THE FIRST VOLUME OF MY MéCANIQUE CéLESTE," Laplace begins. It was, in fact, the proof copy of the work, for Laplace goes on to express his gratitude to Biot for agreeing to read the book prior to publication and point out any errors. "...Je desirerois que pour chaque chaptire, vous voulussiés bien indiquer les principaux resultats, pour la faire imprimer dans la table de l'ouvrage; à peus près comme cela été fait relativement à la theorie des functions analytiques du cit. lagrange..." He tells Biot that the proposed publication date is 1 vendémaire (22 September), and apologizes for putting him to so much trouble ("...l'interest de l'objet peut seul vous en dedommager..."
Biot provided a close reading of Laplace's text, often urging him to provide more elaboarate explanations for the many instances where Laplace simply wrote "It is easy to see..." A prolific scientist in his own right, Biot published a book about Laplace's work, Analyse de la mécanique céleste de M. Laplace (1801) as well as numerous other scientific and historical works such as Essai sur l'histoire générale des sciences pendant la Révolution (1803), and Discours sur Montaigne (1812), among many others. Laplace showed his gratitude for Biot's assistance on Mécanique Céleste by helping the younger man win appointment as professor of physics at the College of France in 1800. Both men were passionate believers in the prominent role of science in establishing the new revolutionary order, one built upon reason. Laplace even yearned to hold governmental power and convinced Napoleon to make him minister of interior. But the scientist's academic, "hair-splitting" manner of administration soon exasperated the First Consul, who kicked Laplace upstairs to the senate. Like all enlightened and ambitious men, Laplace was able to adapt to changing environments. While the third volume of Mécanique Céleste (1802) contained a florid tribute to Napoleon ("the pacifier of Europe"), that hommage was dropped in editions issued after the Bourbon restoration. The restored monarch would elevate "France's Newton" to a marquis in 1817.