Bernoulli, James

, who was born at Basil, Dec. 27, 1654. After he had studied polite literature, he learned the old philosophy of the schools and, having taken his degrees in the university of Basil, applied himself to divinity, not so much from inclination, as complaisance to his father. He gave very early proofs of his genius for mathematics, and soon became a geometrician, without any assistance from masters, and at first almost without books for he was not allowed to have any books of this kind and if one fell by chance into his hands, he was obliged to conceal it, that he might not incur the displeasure of his father, who designed him for other studies. This severity made him choose for his device, Phaeton driving the chariot of the sun, with these words, “Invito patre sidera verso,” “I traverse the stars against my father’s inclination” it had a particular reference to astronomy, the part of mathematics to which he at first applied himself. But these precautions did not avail, for he pursued his favourite study with great application. In 1676 he began his travels. When he was at Geneva, he fell upon a method to teach a young girl to write, though she had lost her sight when she was but two months old. At Bourdeaux he composed universal gnomonic tables, but they were never published. He returned from France to his own country in 1680. About this time there appeared a comet, the return of which he foretold, and wrote a small treatise upon it, which he afterwards translated into Latin. He went soon after to Holland, where he applied himself to the new philosophy, and particularly to that part of the mathematics which consists in resolving problems and demonstrations. After having visited Flanders and Brabant, he went to Calais, and passed over to England. At London he contracted an acquaintance with all the most eminent men in the several sciences and had the honour of being frequently present at the philosophical societies held at the house of Mr. Boyle. He returned to his native country in 1682; and exhibited at Basil a course of | experiments in natural philosophy and mechanics, which consisted of a variety of new discoveries. The same year he published his “Essay on a new system of Comets” and the year following, his “Dissertation on the weight of the Air.” About this time Leibnitz having published, in the Acta Eruditorum at Leipsic, some essays on his new “Caiulus Differentialis,” but concealing the art and method of it, Mr. Bernoulli and his brother John discovered, by the little which they saw, the beauty and extent of it: this induced them to endeavour to unravel the secret; which they did with such success, that Leibnitz declared that the invention belonged to them as much as to himself.

In 1687, James Bernoulli succeeded to the professorship of mathematics at Basil a trust which he discharged with great applause and his reputation drew a great number of foreigners from all parts to attend his lectures. In 1699 he was admitted a foreign member of the Academy of Sciences of Paris; and in 1701 the same honour was conferred upon him by the Academy of Berlin: in both of which he published several ingenious compositions, about the years 1702, 3, and 4. He wrote also several pieces in he “Acta Eruditorum” of Leipsic, and in the “Journal des Sc.avans.” His intense application to study brought upon him the gout, and by degrees a slow fever, which ut a period to his life the 16th of August 1705, in the 5 1st year of his age. Archimedes having found out the proportion of a sphere and its circumscribing cylinder, ordered them to be engraven on his monument in imitation of him, Bernoulli appointed that a logarithmic spiral curve should be inscribed on his tomb, with these words, “Eadem mutata resurgo” in allusion to the hopes of the resurrection, which are in some measure represented by the properties of that curve, which he had the honour of iscovering.

James Bernoulli had an excellent genius for invention nd elegant simplicity, as well as a close application. He as eminently skilled in all the branches of the mathemaics, and contributed much to the promoting the new anasis, infinite series, &c. He carried to a great height e theory of the quadrature of the parabola the geometry f curve lines, of spirals, of cycloids and epicycloids. His orks, that had been published, were collected, and printed n 2 volumes 4to, at Geneva in 1744. At the time of his eath he was occupied on a great work entitled “De Arte | Conjectandi,” which was published in 4to, in 1713. It contains one of the best and most elegant introductions to Infinite Series, &c. This posthumous work is omitted in the collection of his works above mentioned, as is a letter of his printed for the first time by M. Bossut in the “Journal de Physique,” Sept. 1792. 1

1 Gen. Dict. —Moreri. Biog. Univ. Saxii Onoraasticon. Button’s Math. Dictionary.