(March 23, 1749 – March 5, 1827)
Before recounting Laplace’s contributions, let me mention that he died on the same day as Alessandro Volta (the inventor of electric battery). Although a mere coincidence, it was a double whammy for 19th century science. Laplace made far-reaching contributions to physics and mathematics. Among others, his works on Probability Theory are remarkable. The same is true for his exploits in Celestial Mechanics, which improved Isaac Newton’s works in ways that earned him the nickname: “French Newton”. Alongside Antoine Lavoisier, Pierre-Simon Laplace was in the team which established the metric system of measurements. He would later cooperate with Lavoisier in thermochemical research (regarding combustion and specific heat evaluations). It was during these experiments that he became the first person to assert that sound’s velocity in air varies with the atmospheric heat capacity ratio. Laplace’s five-volume compendium, titled Mécanique Céleste, employed geometric calculus (in lieu of synthetic geometry) for more accuracy in solving celestial mechanical problems. Also, his reluctance to ignore micro-issues enabled him triumph where greater mavens, such as Leonhard Euler and Joseph-Louis Lagrange, stumped. This pertained to astro-bewilderment in which Jupiter’s orbit seemed to be shrinking whereas that of Saturn seemed to be expanding. Laplace resolved it by factoring-in the negligible approximations which Euler and Lagrange had overlooked; but which cumulatively, yielded the accurate result. In addition to numerous mathematics, statistics, physics, astronomy, computing and engineering concepts, he is the eponym of 4628 Laplace asteroid. Also dedicated to him is the 2.6-kilometer-high Promontorium Laplace on the moon’s Montes Jura.