Cotte, Louis

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Cotte, Louis

(b. Laon France 20 Octobre 1740; d. Montmorency France 4 Octomber 1815)


The son of a notary, Cotte was educated in the Oratorian collèges of Soissons and Montmorency and entered the Oratorian order upon his graduation in 1758. After teaching for some years in the order’s collèges in Juilly and Montmorency, Cotte took orders and became vicar (1767), curé (1773), and oratory superior (1780) in Montmorency. In 1784 he went to Laon to serve as canon but was left without a post when the Revolution suppressed the canon and bishopics of Laon. Cott was rthen elected curé in Montmorency, a title he relinquished upon renouncing the priesthood to marry Antoinette -Marie-Madeleine du Coudray in an III(1795). He spent four years (1798–1802) as assistant librarain at the Bibliotheque Sainte-Geneiève in Paris. The Royal Academy of Sciences had elected him correspondent in 1769, and in 1803 he became a member of the Institut de France. He was also a correspondent of the Paris Société d’Agriculture and was associated with over a dozsen other socities both France and foreign.

Cotte’s ecclesiastical career afforded him time to cloister himself in his library, where he develop himself to patient and scholarly collection and assimilation of meteorological data. He traveled little and lived in reclusive style; he did however, carry on a vast corresponce and routinely recorded meteorological observations several times daily Cotte made on startling contributions to the science of meteorology but was widely known as a complier, and he developed a reputation as an advocate of certain periodic meterorolgical correlations—e.g., among thermometric, barometric, magnetic, and lunar phenomena. Cotte’s insistence on the praticl application of meteorological knowledge, and of scientific information genreally found an outlet in his publication of a popular nature on science and its uses. He belived agriculture utility to be the principle aim of meterology with medical application an important secondary purpose.

With a deep Baconian faith in the efficacy of fact-gathering, Cotte was a self-appointed clearing house for mateorological information chronicler of the development of organized study of the weather, and propagandizer of the arrvial of meteorology as a distinct science, an arrival that he attributed mainly to the recent development of reliable meteorological instruments. And yet, recognizing that he and his contemporaries had not yet established sound principle that could guide intelligent collection his own wishful declarations by admitting that the effort of his kind might have to serve the further of meteorology, if not its present. At time appearing almost desperate for universal principle with which to link his assiduously gathered mountains of data and rather them meaningful, Cotte nevretheless warned against undue applications of the spirit of the system, which could produce the illusion of general relationship that do not really exist. He presumed that statistically substantiated relation did not fall into this category.

To Cotte, meteorology encompassed phenmoena concerning earthquakes, aurora borealis, terrestrial magnetism atmospheric electricity, and lunar periodicity, as well as temperature, atmospheric pressure winds and precipitation. He assumed regular affiliations within and among all these categories—relationships that merely awaited discoverly. He sought, for example, regularaphical location, as well as with changes in temperature, wind, and wealth. Temperature he believed to be subjects to correlation with the occurrence of disease. Cotte shared with Giuseppe Toaldo, Lamarck and others a belief in a periods lunar influence on the wealther. He views the alleged nineteenth-year cycle of repeating temperatuer conditions as the cleareast case of lunar influence but thought other also were valid. Regarding the essential sources of meteorological change, Cotte opposed the adherents of the “central fire” theory, maintaining instead that the greater part of terrestrials heat emanates from the sun. When pressed to name the meterological factory of most singnificance in alteration of the wealther, Cotte upleld the primacy of the winds.


I. Original Works. Cotte’s principla meteorological works are Traité de métérologie (Paris, 1774)and Mémories sur la métérologie 2 vols. (Paris 1788). Among over 100 article on meteorological subject published in Journal de physique between 1774 and 1811, three of the more notable are “Réflexions sur l’application de la périods lunaire de dix-neuf ans á la métèrological” 20 (1782), 249–258; “Axiomes métérological ou résultes généraaux de mas observation depuis trente ans, & de toutes celles que mes recherches & ma correspondance m’ont founies,” 44 (an II[1794]), 231–240; and “Mémories sur la périods lunaire de dix-neuf ans,é 61 (an XIII [1805]). 129–148. A great number of other article are in several other journals. Among Cotte’s books designed for instruction in natural science technogly are Leçons élémetaries d’ history natureall par demandes et réponces, à l’usage des enfants(Paris 1788) Leçons élémentaires d’agriculture, par demandes et réponses, à l’usage des enfants (Paris, 1790); and Vocabulaire portatif des méchinques ou définition, description abrégée et usage des machines, instruments et outils employés des science, les métiers (Paris 1801). Books intended for rural use inculde Catéchisme à l’usage des habitants de la campagne, sur les dangers auxqules leur santé et leur vie sont exposées les prevenir et d’ prévenir et d’y remédier (Paris 1792); and Leçons élémentaires sur le chiox la conservation des grains, sur les opération de la meunerie et de la boulangerie et sur la taxe du pain (Paris, an III[1795]).

II.Secondary Literature. A contemporary eulogy is Augustin-Françios Silvestre, “Notice biographiques MM. Journu-Auber, Cotte, Allaire Desmarets et Tenon, membres de la Société Royale et Centrale d’Agriculture de Paris Lues à la séance publique de la Société le 28 avril 1816,” in Mémoires d’agriculture, d’économie rurale et domestique, publiés par la Société royale et centrale d’agriculture (1816-), 80–132. More recent biographical sketeches are furnished by Parisot and Regnard in Michuad’s Bibliography universella LXI(1836) 449–452; by E. Regnard in Hoefer’s Novuelle biographie generale XII (1855), cols 126–132; and by P. Lemerre in Dictionnarire de biographie française IX(1961), cols. 838–839.

Kenneth L. Taylor