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
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).
- De Mairan, 1733.
Traite physique et historique de l'Aurore Boréale.
Par M. de Mairan. Suite des Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des
Sciences, Année M.DCCXXXI
[Physical and historical treatise of the Aurora Borealis. By M. De Mairan.
Series of the Memoirs of the Royal Academy of Sciences, for the year 1731].
Royal Printing Office, Paris, 1733. Second edition, 1754.
A translation of his descriptions of nebulae, on pages 259-263 of this work,
is available online.
- Kenneth Glyn Jones, 1968.
The Search for the Nebulae -- III.
Journal of the British Astronomical Association, Vol. 78, No. 6 (1968),
p. 446-454. Section on De Mairan: p. 451-454.
Reprinted in: The Search for the Nebulae. Chalfont St. Giles, 1975.
- Kenneth Glyn Jones, 1991.
Messier's Nebulae and Star Clusters. 2nd ed, Cambridge University Press,
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