Bernoulli, Johann (Jean) II

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Bernoulli, Johann (Jean) II

(b. Basel, Switzerland, 28 May 1710; d. Basel, 17 July 1790)


Johann II was perhaps the most successful of Johann I’s sons, inasmuch as he succeeded his father in the chair of mathematics after having previously taught rhetoric. In 1727 he obtained the degree of doctor of jurisprudence (1). Subsequently he won the prize of the Paris Academy four times, either by himself or with his father (2–5)—undoubtedly sufficient qualification to make him Johann I’s successor. But thereafter his mathematical production dwindled to occasional academic papers and a treatise (6), although he lived to be almost as old as his father. His shyness and frail constitution did not, however, prevent him from engaging in extensive scientific correspondence (about 900 items) and from furthering the publication, in four volumes, of his father’s Opera omnia. He personified the mathematical genius of his native city in the second half of the eighteenth century. In 1756, after resigning as president of the Berlin Academy, Maupertuis found refuge with him in Basel, where he died in 1759,


Bernoulli’s writings include (1) De compensationibus (Basel, 1729), dissertation for the doctor of jurisprudence; (2) “Recherches physiques et géométriques sur la question: Comment se fait la propagation de la lumière,” in Recueildes pièces qui ont remportéles prix de l’Académie royale des sciences, III (1736); (3) “Discours sur les ancres,” ibid., (1737); (4) “Discours sur le cabestan,” ibid., V (1741); (5) “Nouveaux principes de mécanique et de physique tendans à expliquer la nature et les propriétés de l’Aiman,” ibid., V (1743); and (6) “Réponse à une lettre anonyme sur la figure de la terre,” in Journal Helvét, (1740), pp, 219 et seq.

J. O. Fleckenstein