La Hire, Gabriel-Philippe (or Philippe II) De

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La Hire, Gabriel-Philippe (or Philippe II) De

(b. Paris, France, 25 July 1677; d. Paris, 4 June 1719)

astronomy, geodesy, architecture.

Son of the astronomer Philippe de La Hire and his first wife, Catherine Lesage, La Hire, whom his contemporaties most often called Philipe II, was educated at the Paris observatory, where he lived after 1682. Initiated from childhood into astronomy and the technique of meteorological and astromonical observation, he soon assisted his father in the regular work of observation, which led to his beign named élève-astronome at the Academy of Sciences by 1694. (He became associé at the time of the reorganization of 1699 and succeeded his father as pensionnaire on 17 May 1718.) The first work of his own, establishing the Ephémérides for 1701, 1702, and 1703, involved him in a painful dispute with Jean Le Fèvre, astronome pensionnaire and editor of the Connaissance des temps, who accused La Hire and his father of plagiarism and incompetence. Severely censured by the Academy, Le Fèvre was expelled in January 1702 and also gave up the editorship of the Connaissance des temps. In 1702 La Hire published a new edition, with numerous additions, of Mathurin Jousse’s Le théātre de l’art de charpenterie.

Starting in 1703 La Hire presented short memoirs to the Academy of Sciences. Although they reveal no marked originality, their variety attests to the range of his interests: observational and physical astronomy (seven memoirs), meteorology and physics (seven), applied science (three), and medicine (two). His nomination on 25 January 1706 as member of the second class of the Royal Academy of Architecture led La Hire to consider several technical and architectural problems. His treatment of them is preserved in this academy’s Procés-verbaus. In 1718 he succeeded his father as professor at this institution but filled this position for only a few months. In the same year La Hire participated in the geodesic operations carries out under the direction of JAcques Cassini to extend the meridian of Paris from Amiens to Dunkerque.

La Hire, his father’s diligent collaborator and eventual successor, produced during his brief career a body of work almost as varied as the latter’s, although of much more limited extent.


I. Original Works. In addition to the three fascicules of Ephémérides for 1701, and 1703, published under the auspices of the Académie des Sciences as Regiae scientiarum academiae ephemerides ad annum 1701… (Pairs, 1700–1702), La Hire presented nineteen short memoirs to the Academy between 1703 and 1719; these were published in the annual volumes of the Histoire de I’Académie royale des science. A list of them is included in the Tables générales des matiéres continues dans l;Histoire et dans les Mémoires de l’Académic royale des sciences, II and III (Paris, 1729), 318–318 and 169–170, respectively; incomplete lists are in J. M. Quérard, La France littéraire, IV (Pairs, 1830), 447; and in Poggendorff, I, 1348–1349. La Hire also republished Mathurin Jousse’s L’art de charpenterie … corrigé et augmenté… (Paris, 1702).

II. Secondary Literature. Some biographical details are given by Weiss in Michaud’s Biographie universelle, XXIII (Paris, 1819), 198–199; and by A. Jal, in Dictionnaire critique de biographie et d’histoire, 2nd ed. (Paris, 1872), pp. 730–731. Some information on La Hire;s astronomical writings can be found in J. de Lalande, Bibliographie astronomique … (Pairs, 1803), index; J. B. J. Delambre, Histoire de l’astronomie moderne, II (Paris, 1821), 683–685; and C. Wolf, Histoire de l’observatoire de Paris (Paris, 1902), index. The Procés-verbaux de l’Académie royale d’architecture, 1697–1726, H. Lemonnier, ed., III-IV (Paris, 1913–1915), and index to X (Paris, 1929), contain information on his architectural activity.

RenÉ Taton

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La Hire, Gabriel-Philippe (or Philippe II) De

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