Étienne Montucla

Jean-Étienne Montucla

1725 (Lyon, France) – 1799 (Versailles)

The modest and erudite Montucla wrote the first full-scale history of mathematics. He befriended Diderot and d’Alembert at age 20; they encouraged his history of the problem of squaring the circle. He was closely allied with the Encyclopedists, especially d’Alembert, and faithfully withdrew from the Académie de Lyon when they were giving d’Alembert trouble. His friend Lalande ensured publication of the final part of Montucla’s magnum opus following his death. Fourier sent him an algebraic paper for his comment, but he didn’t respond (Fourier’s cryptic remark suggests Montucla had given up practising mathematics by then).