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by BBC Radio 4
In Our Time: History

Pierre-Simon Laplace

Description

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss Laplace (1749-1827) who was a giant in the world of mathematics both before and after the French Revolution. He addressed one of the great questions of his age, raised but side-stepped by Newton: was the Solar System stable, or would the planets crash into the Sun, as it appeared Jupiter might, or even spin away like Saturn threatened to do? He advanced ideas on probability, long the preserve of card players, and expanded them out across science; he hypothesised why the planets rotate in the same direction; and he asked if the Universe was deterministic, so that if you knew everything about all the particles then you could predict the future. He also devised the metric system and reputedly came up with the name 'metre'.

With

Marcus du Sautoy
Simonyi Professor for the Public Understanding of Science and Professor of Mathematics at the University of Oxford

Timothy Gowers
Professor of Mathematics at the College de France

And

Colva Roney-Dougal
Professor of Pure Mathematics at the University of St Andrews

Producer: Simon Tillotson

Details

Episode

by BBC Radio 4