Alembert, Jean le Rond d’
- Thomas Christensen
(b Paris, Nov 16, 1717; d Paris, Oct 29, 1783). French philosopher, mathematician and music theorist. He was abandoned by his mother as a child, and raised in a modest household by an artisan’s wife. A precocious child, he received a good education at a Jansenist school, and went on to study medicine and law. His true passion, though, was mathematics, and he soon abandoned his legal studies in order to devote all his energies to the subject. His particular interest lay in the field of rational mechanics, an important discipline in the 18th century, in which physical problems and phenomena were analysed in the abstract, using mathematics and geometry. D’Alembert submitted his first paper to the Royal Academy of Sciences in 1739, and published his important Traité de dynamique in 1743; his fame rose rapidly. One of his most important contributions lay in the development of partial differential equations, partly inspired by his study of the vibrating string in ...