Joseph Louis Lagrange

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Joseph-Louis Lagrange (25 January 1736 – 10 April 1813), born Giuseppe Lodovico (Luigi) Lagrangia, was a mathematician and astronomer, who was born in Turin, Piedmont, lived part of his life in Prussia and part in France, making significant contributions to all fields of analysis, to number theory, and to classical and celestial mechanics. On the recommendation of Euler and d'Alembert, in 1766 Lagrange succeeded Euler as the director of mathematics at the Prussian Academy of Sciences in Berlin, where he stayed for over twenty years, producing a large body of work and winning several prizes of the French Academy of Sciences. Lagrange's treatise on analytical mechanics (Mécanique Analytique, 4. ed., 2 vols. Paris: Gauthier-Villars et fils, 1888-89), written in Berlin and first published in 1788, offered the most comprehensive treatment of classical mechanics since Newton and formed a basis for the development of mathematical physics in the nineteenth century.

Lagrange's parents were Italians, although he also had French ancestors on his father's side. In 1787, at age 51, he moved from Berlin to France and became a member of the French Academy, and he remained in France until the end of his life. Therefore, Lagrange is alternatively considered a French and an Italian scientist. Lagrange survived the French Revolution and became the first professor of analysis at the École Polytechnique upon its opening in 1794. Napoleon named Lagrange to the Legion of Honour and made him a Count of the Empire in 1808. He is buried in the Panthéon.


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