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How to stick names on fifteen heads
in L’Académie des Sciences devant Louis XIV?
First I collected information on the people who were to be found in the picture. Age and being a clergyman (or not) seemed two useful variables to start with. There were two distinct groups: members born around 1600 and members born after 1620. I compiled the following table. Within each cell the names are sorted by age. De la Chambre is the oldest (and died in 1669) and Couplet is the youngest person with a known date of birth.
Date of
La Chambre Ph (†1669)
DuClos Ch
Carcavy Ge
Roberval Ge
Frenicle de Bessy Ge
1613 Perrault Ph
Mariotte Ph
Picard As
Bourdelin Ch
Pecquet An
Du Hamel As
Huyghens Ge
Azout As
Richer As
Couplet Me
unknown Gayant An (†1673)
Buot Ge (†1675)
Marchant Bo (†1678)
unknown Nicquet Ge (†?)
de la Voye Mignot Ge (†?)
Pivert ? (†?)
From Histoire de l'Académie Royale des Sciences, Tome II, pag. 13, I learned that "Le Ministre joignit à ces Geometres & à ces Phisiciens consommés de jeunes gens propres à les aider dans leur traveaux, & à leur succeder un jour. Ce furent MM. Niquet, Couplet, Richer, Pivert, de la Voye.". Therefor the names of these people are colored white.
The next table shows the changes in the first 9 years of Académie des Sciences based on G.G.Meynell The French Academy of Sciences, 1666-91.
Year Math. Biol. Tot.
Plus Minus Net Plus Minus Net
1667 - Auzout* 6 - - 7 13
1668 - - 6 - - 7 13
1669 Blondel, Cassini - 8 - La Chambre 6 14
1670 - - 8 - - 6 14
1671 - - 8 - - 6 14
1672 Roemer - 9 - - 6 15
1673 - - 9 Dodart Gayant 6 15
1674 - - 9 Borelly Pecquet 6 15
1675 - Frénicle de Bessy, Roberval 7 - - 6 13

*Contrary to this information Auzout left the Académie in the middle of 1668, after an argument with Perrault, that led to his removal from the Academy and his departure to Italy (Brown p.14?, OC VI:267). This makes it less likely that he is included in the picture. Probably Meynell only took into account that Auzout was not paid after 18 dec 1667.
At the other hand Cassini, who entered the Académie in april 1669, is included in the picture. So one might ask which moment in the history of the Académie is actually represented in this picture. For if Cassini is in it, then it also might be assumed that Blondel, who entered also in 1669, is present in the picture.
According to the saying that Birds of a feather flock together, I then assumed that Geometers, Astronomers, and Physicians would be clustered in separate groups or layers in the painting. For example Duhamel, Cassini, Picard is one such layer (of astronomers) and people standing right behind Huygens, would be geometers and the people in front of Mariotte would be physicians.
Started: feb 28, 2004
Last Update: dec 29, 2004