Jean-Jacques D'Ortous De Mairan (November 26, 1678 - February 20, 1771)

Born on November 26, 1678 in Béziers as a lower nobleman, de Mairan attended college at Toulouse, with main interest in ancient Greek language. He went to Paris in 1698 to study physics and math, under the direction of Malebranche (1638-1715), among others. From 1704 to 1718 he lived in Béziers. In 1718, he was made a member of the Royal Academy of Sciences as Associate in the department of Geometry. In 1740 he became Associate Secretary of the academy, and was elected to the Academy Francaise in 1743. Soon after, he was appointed as associate editor of a famous scientific periodical, the Journal des Scavans. He was also a member of the academies in London, Edinburgh, Uppsala and St. Petersburg.

De Mairan's scientific work includes contributions to the theory of heat, observations of meteorological phenomena, and theoretical work on the orbital motion and rotation of the Moon.

He mentioned his notion of a small nebulosity around a star closely north of the Orion Nebula in or before 1731, mentioned in his best known work, Traite physique and historique de l'Aurore Boreale (Physical and Historic Tract of the Aurora Borealis), published 1733 in Paris and reprinted in the Journal des Scavans in 1754. This nebula was later cataloged as "M43" by Charles Messier.

De Mairan died of pneumonia in Paris on February 20, 1771.

He is honored by naming a Moon Crater after him: Mairan (41.6N, 43.4W, 40.0 km diameter, named 1935).



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