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Pierre Louis Maupertuis

Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (July 17, 1698 - July 27, 1759) was a French mathematician and astronomer. He is often credited with having invented the principle of least action.

He was born at Saint-Malo, France. At the age of twenty he entered the army, becoming a lieutenant in a cavalry regiment, and studying mathematics in his spare time. After five years he left the army and was admitted in 1723 a member of the Académie des Sciences. In 1728 he visited London, and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society. In 1736 he acted as chief of the expedition sent by King Louis XV to Lapland to measure the length of a degree of the meridian, and on his return home he became a member of almost all the scientific societies of Europe.

In 1740 Maupertuis went to Berlin at the invitation of Frederick II of Prussia, and took part in the Battle of Mollwitz, where he was taken prisoner by the Austrians. On his release he returned to Berlin, and thence to Paris, where he was elected director of the Academy of Sciences in 1742, and in the following year was admitted into the Académie française. Returning to Berlin in 1744, again at the desire of Frederick II, he was chosen president of the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1746. Finding his health declining, he repaired in 1757 to the south of France, but went in 1758 to Basel, where he died a year later. Maupertuis' difficult disposition involved him in constant quarrels, of which his controversies with Samuel König and Voltaire during the latter part of his life are examples.

The following are his most important works:

His Œuvres were published in 1752 at Dresden and in 1756 at Lyons.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.