Hamel, John Baptists Du

, a very learned French philosopher and divine, was born at Vire in Lower Normandy, 1624. He passed through his first studies at Caen, and his course of rhetoric and philosophy at Paris. At eighteen he wrote a treatise, in which he explained, in a, very simple manner, and by one or two figures, Theodosius’s three books upon spherics; to which he added a tract upon trigonometry, extremely short, yet perspicuous, and designed as an introduction to astronomy. In one of his latter works he observes, that he was prompted by the vanity natural to a young man to publish this book: but, as Fontenelle remarks, there are few persons of that age | capable of such an instance of vanity. At nineteen he entered himself in the congregation of the oratory, where he continued ten years, and left it in order to be curate of Neuilli upon the Marne. He applied in the mean time intensely to study, and acquired much reputation' by publishing works upon astronomy and philosophy. In 1666, Colbert proposed to Lewis XIV. a scheme, which was approved by his majesty, for establishing a royal academy of sciences; and appointed our author secretary of it. In 1668, he attended M. Colbert de Croissy, plenipotentiary for the peace at Aix la Chapelle; and, upon the conclusion of it, accompanied him in his embassy to England, where he formed an acquaintance with the most eminent persons of this nation, particularly with Boyle, Hay, and Willis. Thence he went over to Holland, and returned to France, having made a great number of useful observations in his travels. In 1678 his “Philosophia Vetus etNova, ad usum scholae aceommodatain regia Burgundia pertractata,” was printed at Paris in 4 vols. 12mo; and, in 1681, enlarged and reprinted there in six. This work, which was done by the order of M. Colbert, contains a judicious collection of the ancient and modern opinions in philosophy. Several years after its publication, the Jesuits carried it to the East-Indies, and taught it with success; and father Bovet, a missionary in China, wrote to Europe, that when his brethren and himself engaged in drawing up a system of philosophy in the Tartarian language for the emperor, one of their chief aids was Du Hamel’s “Philosophia e’t Astronomia;” and they were then highly valued, though the improvements in philosophy since his time have rendered them of little use. In 1697 he resigned his place of secretary of the royal academy of sciences, which by his recommendation he procured for M. de Fontenelle. He had some years before this devoted himself to divinity, and published various works in that science. However, he did not entirely resign his former studies, but published at Paris, in 1698, “Regiae Scientiarum Academiae Historia,” 4to, in four books; which, being much liked, he afterwards augmented with two books more. It contains an account of the foundation of the royal academy of sciences, and its transactions, from 1666 to 1700, and is now the most useful of any of his works relating to philosophy; as perhaps the most useful which he published in theology is his last work printed at Paris, 1706, in folio, and entitled | Biblia Sacra Vulgatae editionis, una cum selectis ex optimis quib usque interpretibus notis, prolegomenis, novis tabulis chronologicis et geographicis.

He died at Paris August 6, 1706, without any sickness, and of mere old age, being almost eighty-three. Though he had quitted his cure at Neuilli in 1663, yet he went every year to visit his old flock and the day he spent there was kept as an holy-day by the whole village. He was highly esteemed by the most eminent prelates of France, though he enjoyed but very small preferments. He was a man of great modesty, affability, piety, and integrity; he was disinterested, averse to all contests, and exempt from jealousy and affectation. He wrote Latin with remarkable purity and elegance. 1


Gen. Dict. —Moreri. —Niceron, vol. I. and X. —Saxii Onomast.Hutton’s Dictionary.