Pierre-Simon Laplace quotes

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Pierre-Simon Laplace

Birthdate: 23. March 1749
Date of death: 5. March 1827

Pierre-Simon, marquis de Laplace was a French scholar whose work was important to the development of engineering, mathematics, statistics, physics, astronomy, and philosophy. He summarized and extended the work of his predecessors in his five-volume Mécanique Céleste . This work translated the geometric study of classical mechanics to one based on calculus, opening up a broader range of problems. In statistics, the Bayesian interpretation of probability was developed mainly by Laplace.Laplace formulated Laplace's equation, and pioneered the Laplace transform which appears in many branches of mathematical physics, a field that he took a leading role in forming. The Laplacian differential operator, widely used in mathematics, is also named after him. He restated and developed the nebular hypothesis of the origin of the Solar System and was one of the first scientists to postulate the existence of black holes and the notion of gravitational collapse.

Laplace is remembered as one of the greatest scientists of all time. Sometimes referred to as the French Newton or Newton of France, he has been described as possessing a phenomenal natural mathematical faculty superior to that of any of his contemporaries.

He was Napoleon's examiner when Napoleon attended the École Militaire in Paris in 1784.

Laplace became a count of the Empire in 1806 and was named a marquis in 1817, after the Bourbon Restoration. Wikipedia

Works

„The theory of chance consists in reducing all the events of the same kind to a certain number of cases equally possible“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace, book Philosophical Essay on Probabilities

Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1902)
Context: The theory of chance consists in reducing all the events of the same kind to a certain number of cases equally possible, that is to say, to such as we may be equally undecided about in regard to their existence, and in determining the number of cases favorable to the event whose probability is sought.<!--p.6

„Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace, book Philosophical Essay on Probabilities

Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1902)
Context: Given for one instant an intelligence which could comprehend all the forces by which nature is animated and the respective situation of the beings who compose it—an intelligence sufficiently vast to submit these data to analysis—it would embrace in the same formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the lightest atom; for it, nothing would be uncertain and the future, as the past, would be present to its eyes. The human mind offers, in the perfection which it has been able to give to astronomy, a feeble idea of this intelligence. Its discoveries in mechanics and geometry, added to that of universal gravity, have enabled it to comprehend in the same analytical expressions the past and future states of the system of the world.<!--p.4

„All these efforts in the search for truth tend to lead it“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace, book Philosophical Essay on Probabilities

Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1902)
Context: All these efforts in the search for truth tend to lead it [the human mind] back continually to the vast intelligence... but from which it will always remain infinitely removed. This tendency peculiar to the human race is that which renders it superior... and their progress in this respect distinguishes nations and ages and constitutes their true glory.<!--pp.4-5

„The most important questions of life… are indeed for the most part only problems of probability.“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace, book Philosophical Essay on Probabilities

Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (1902)
Context: The most important questions of life... are indeed for the most part only problems of probability. Strictly speaking it may even be said that nearly all our knowledge is problematical; and in the small number of things which we are able to know with certainty, even in the mathematical sciences themselves, the principal means for ascertaining truth—induction and analogy—are based on probabilities.<!--p.1

„Man follows only phantoms.“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace

His true last words, according to Augustus De Morgan's Budget of Paradoxes (1866).
Compare Edmund Burke's famous remark, after a parliamentary candidate's sudden death, about ""what shadows we are, and what shadows we pursue"".

„Nature laughs at the difficulties of integration.“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace

Quoted in I. Gordon and S. Sorkin, The Armchair Science Reader, New York, 1959.

„What we know is not much. What we do not know is immense.“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace

"Ce que nous connaissons est peu de chose, ce que nous ignorons est immense."
Allegedly his last words, reported in Joseph Fourier's "Éloge historique de M. le Marquis de Laplace" (1829) with the comment, "This was at least the meaning of his last words, which were articulated with difficulty." Quoted in Augustus De Morgan's Budget of Paradoxes (1866).

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„"It is therefore obvious that…"“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace

Frequently used in the Traité de mécanique céleste when he had proved something and mislaid the proof, or found it clumsy. Notorious as a signal for something true, but hard to prove.

„"One sees, from this Essay, that the theory of probabilities is basically just common sense reduced to calculus; it makes one appreciate with exactness that which accurate minds feel with a sort of instinct, often without being able to account for it."“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace

"On voit, par cet Essai, que la théorie des probabilités n'est, au fond, que le bon sens réduit au calcul; elle fait apprécier avec exactitude ce que les esprits justes sentent par une sorte d'instinct, sans qu'ils puissent souvent s'en rendre compte."
From the Introduction to Théorie Analytique des Probabilités http://visualiseur.bnf.fr/Visualiseur?Destination=Gallica&O=NUMM-88764, second and later editions; also published separately as Essai philosophique sur les Probabilités (1814). Œuvres complètes de Laplace, tome VII, p. cliii, Paris: Gauthier-Villars, 1878-1912.
Also reported as: "The theory of probabilities is at bottom nothing but common sense reduced to calculus; it enables us to appreciate with exactness that which accurate minds feel with a sort of instinct for which ofttimes they are unable to account."
Or as: "Probability theory is nothing but common sense reduced to calculation."

„"The last thing we expect of you, General, is a lesson in geometry!"“

—  Pierre-Simon Laplace

"La dernière chose que nous attendions de vous, Général, est une leçon de géométrie !"
Laplace to Napoléon, after the latter had reported on some new elementary geometry results[citation needed]

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