The Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley has acquired 25 boxes of scientific and personal papers that belonged to Pierre Simon Laplace, one of France’s top scientists at the time of the French Revolution. The papers are the literary remains of a fire at the Laplace home in Normandy in 1925, and historians believe they should reveal much about the work of Laplace, an astronomer, mathematician and physicist who is credited with major achievements in celestial mechanics and probability theory.
UC Berkeley history professor Roger Hahn, who is writing a biography of Laplace, was largely responsible for arranging the acquisition with a grant from the Flora Lamson Hewlett Memorial Fund. The papers will be housed at the Bancroft Library on the Berkeley campus.
Included in the collection, which will be open to scholars, are Laplace’s manuscripts on a wide range of scientific endeavors and personal papers that could add much to the understanding of that critical period in France’s history. Laplace was a minister under Napoleon Bonaparte and a founder of the Legion of Honor.