I'm interested in the mathematical problems proposed for the grand-prix
of the French Academy Of Sciences, from its beginnigs in 1666 to the present. Are there any books or articles with the precise problem statements & the winners?


2 Answers 2


Ernest Maindron, Les fondations de prix à l’Académie des sciences: Les lauréats de l’Académie, 1714–1880. Gauthier-Villars, Paris, 1881.

It is striking and not well-enough known (e.g. to Wikipedia) how the huge 125,000 pounds endowed in 1714 by Rouillé de Meslay (compare £20,000 for the famous Longitude Act drafted by Newton) drove fame and focus to celestial mechanics (for navigation, mostly even years) and shipbuilding (odd years) in 18th century science and technology, until the French Revolution:

Year Subject Winners
1720 Nature of motion Crousaz
1720 Clock stabilization at sea Massy
1724 Collision laws Mac Laurin, J. Bernoulli
1725 Hourglass and water clock stabilization at sea D. Bernoulli
1726 Collision laws Mazière
1727 Ship masting Bouguer, Le Camus
1728 Causes of gravity Bulffinger
1729 Height measurement at sea Bouguer
1730 Motion of planetary aphelia J. Bernoulli
1731 Compass use at sea Bouguer
1732 Tilting of planetary orbits
1733 Ship path tracing Poleni
1734 Tilting of planetary orbits D. Bernoulli, J. Bernoulli
1736 Propagation of light J. Bernoulli
1737 Anchor design Créqui, Poleni, Trésaguet, D. Bernoulli, J. Bernoulli
1738 Nature and propagation of fire Créqui, Lozeran de Fiesc, L. Euler
1740 Tides Cavalleri, Mac Laurin, L. Euler, D. Bernoulli
1741 Capstan building de Pontis, Fenel, Delorme, Poleni, Ludot, J. Bernoulli
1743 Compass building L. Euler, D. Bernoulli
1746 Compass magnetism Dutour, L. Euler, D. Bernoulli, J. Bernoulli
1747 Finding time at sea D. Bernoulli
1748 Inequalities of Saturn and Jupiter L. Euler
1750 Inequalities of Saturn and Jupiter
1751 Estimation of currents at sea D. Bernoulli
1752 Inequalities of Saturn and Jupiter Bošković, L. Euler
1753 Ship propulsion Mathon de la Cour, Pereyre, L. Euler, D. Bernoulli
1754 Planetary perturbations of Earth
1755 Ship pitch and roll Chauchot
1756 Planetary perturbations of Earth L. Euler
1757 Ship pitch and roll D. Bernoulli
1758 Celestial body atmospheres Frisi
1759 Ship pitch and roll Groignard, L. Euler
1760 Mean motion of planets Frisi, C. Euler
1761 Ship stowage and ballasting Bossut, J. A. Euler
1762 Lunar acceleration Bossut
1764 Lunar libration Lagrange
1765 Ship stowage and ballasting Bourdé de Villehuet, Groignard, Gautier, Bossut
1766 Satellites of Jupiter Lagrange
1768 Secular equation of the Moon
1769 Timekeeping at sea Le Roy
1770 Secular equation of the Moon J. A. Euler, L. Euler
1772 Secular equation of the Moon Lagrange, L. Euler
1773 Timekeeping at sea Arsandeaux, Le Roy
1774 Secular equation of the Moon Lagrange
1776 Planetary perturbations of comets
1777 Compass building Magny, Van Swinden, Coulomb
1778 Planetary perturbations of comets Fuss
1780 Planetary perturbations of comets Lagrange
1781 Rope stiffness and friction in winches Delanges, Ximenes, L. Carnot, Coulomb
1782 Comets of 1532 and 1661 Méchain
1787 Maritime insurance Bicquilley, Delacroix
1791 Resistance of fluids Gerlach, Romme
1791 Herschel’s planet Delambre
1792 Satellites of Jupiter Delambre

More details in:
Frédéric Marguet, Histoire générale de la navigation du XVe au XXe siècle. Société d’Éditions Géographiques, Maritimes et Coloniales, Paris, 1931.

  • $\begingroup$ Very nice! But what about after 1880? $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2018 at 14:57
  • $\begingroup$ I don’t know. Start here? $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2018 at 15:53
  • $\begingroup$ I wanted to add one point for the addition of Marguet, but somehow the system does not allow it. I was under impression that after a an answer was edited I can vote once more. $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2018 at 17:16
  • $\begingroup$ It seems that from the pure utilitarian view the British had better return on their money:-) $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2018 at 17:17
  • $\begingroup$ For sure, their navy ended up trouncing the rest of them, and they got an empire. But I remember reading that Harrison’s clocks long remained so expensive that in practice most ships used the lunar distance method, based on the work of Euler and Mayer. Also, I believe the French prizes only spent the interest of the original fund, not the capital (which only later got lost to inflation or political turmoil). And today we do use celestial navigation — only with ad hoc satellites (GPS). (P.S. I appreciate your generous intent :-)) $\endgroup$ Oct 28, 2018 at 18:20

The first prize winning essays are available in full via Google Books in Pieces qui ont remporte les deux prizes de l'Academie Royale des Sciences (Paris 1721). Hope your 18th century French is up to scratch!


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