Jérôme Lalande

Joseph-Jérôme Lefrançais de Lalande

1732 (Bourg-en-Bresse, France) – 1807 (Paris)

Lalande produced the best planetary tables of his time, tried to get Galileo’s and Copernicus’s works unbanned, promoted the work of female astronomers, and once ate spiders to demonstrate their harmlessness. He met Maupertuis, Euler, Voltaire and La Mettrie in Berlin aged 19, taking lunar sightings to triangulate with his colleague Lacaille’s from Capetown. He met Maskelyne in London, Boscovich in Rome, and got migraines from doing calculations to help Clairaut. Piazzi, Delambre and Méchain were his students, Messier and Herschel friends, von Zach a correspondent, and Helvétius, Franklin, and Lacépède masonic colleagues. Voltaire disparaged him; d’Alembert compared him to vermin.

Jérôme Lalande knew…