Friday, September 17, 2010

Condorcet

Jean Antoine, Marquis de Condorcet may be the first mathematician to grace the pages of the Daily Sir Walter.  The French philosopher published several papers on integral calculus between 1765 and 1772, adding, in 1784, a work on differential and integral calculus.  Condorcet was born in the Picardy region of France on September 17, 1743.

Condorcet became an important figure in the French Revolution, which Walter Scott covers in his "The Life of Napoleon Buonaparte".  He was elected to the Assembly in 1791, and served as its secretary.  One of the main tasks of the Assembly at this time, which Condorcet was actively engaged in, was the drafting of a constitution.  Politically, Condorcet became a Girodinist, on which Scott has a few words:

'In stern opposition to those admirers of the constitution, stood two bodies of unequal numbers, strength, and efficacy; of which the first was determined that the Revolution should never stop until the downfall of the monarchy, while the second entertained the equally resolved purpose of urging these changes still farther onwards, to the total destruction of all civil order, and the establishment of a government, in which terror and violence should be the ruling principles, to be wielded by the hands of the demagogues who dared to nourish a scheme so nefarious. We have indicated the existence of both these parties in the first, or Constituent Assembly; but in the second, called the Legislative, they assumed a more decided form, and appeared united towards the abolition of royalty as a common end, though certain, when it was attained, to dispute with each other the use which was to be made of the victory. In the words of Shakspeare, they were determined


" To lay this Angiers even with the ground,
 Then, after, tight who should be king of it."

The first of these parties took its most common denomination from the Gironde, a department which sent most of its members to the Convention. Condorcet, dear to science, was one of this party, and it was often named from Brissot, another of its principal leaders. Its most distinguished champions were men bred as lawyers in the south of France, who had, by mutual flattery, and the habit of living much together, acquired no small portion of that self-conceit and overweening opinion of each other's talents, which may be frequently found among small provincial associations for political or literary purposes. '

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