Mairan, John James D'Ortous De

, a French philosopher, whose works do credit to his country, was born at Beziers, in 1678. He was early admitted into the academy of sciences, and the French academy; and in the former, in 1741, succeeded Fontenelle in the office of perpetual secretary. This place he filled with great reputation for three years, and displayed, like his predecessor, the talent of placing the most abstruse questions in a clear and intelligible light. He died at Paris, Feb. 20, 1771. His works are, 1. “Dissertation sur les variations du Barometre,1715, 12mo. 2. “Dissertation sur la cause de la lumiere des Phosphores, et des noctiluques,1717, 12mo. 3. “Dissertation sur la Glace,1719, 12mo. 4. “Lettre a M. I’abbe Bignon, sur la nature des Vaisseaux.1728, 4to. 5. “Traiie physique et historique de l’Aurore Boreale,1733, 4to. 6. “Dissertation sur les forces motrices des corps,1741, 12 mo. 7. “Lettre a Madame du Chatelet, sur ia question des forces vives,1741, 12mo. | 8. “Eloges des Academicians de l’academie des sciences, morts en 1741, 1743, and 1747,” 12mo. In these compositions, without imitating Fontenelle, he is thought nearly to equal him, in the talent of characterizing the persons he describes, and appreciating their merits justly. 9. “Lettre au Pere Parennin, contenant diverses questions, sur la Chine,” 12mo. This is a curious work, and strongly displays the philosophical mind of the author. 10. Many memoirs inserted in the volumes of the academy of sciences, and some other compositions of no great bulk. Mairan was much admired in society as an intelligent, agreeable, and lively companion. It is of him that madame Pompadour relates the following anecdote, which, if we mistake not, has been attributed to others: “His house had by chance taken fire, which was just getting into the second floor, where he was plodding calmly over his circles and triangles. He is summoned to fly without delay `Talk to my wife,' says he, `I meddle with none of these matters’ and sat down again contentedly to muse on the moon, until he was forced out of the house.1


Dict. Hist. Necrologie, vol. IV Madame Pompadour’s Letters