Mathematician:Nicole Oresme

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French philosopher and mathematician best known for his many writings.

Known for being critical of the writings of Aristotle, an unusual philosophical position for his day.

Defined the power of a number to a non-integral exponent.

A lifelong friend of Charles V "The Wise" of France.

Credited with:

  • The invention of analytic geometry before Descartes
  • Propounding structural theories of compounds before nineteenth century organic chemists
  • Discovering the law of free fall before Galileo
  • Advocating the rotation of the Earth before Copernicus.

None of these claims is in fact true, but Oresme did philosophise on such matters in his works.




  • Born: between 1320 and 1325, probably of peasant stock, in Allemagne (today's Fleury-sur-Orne) near Caen, Normandy
  • 1348: Gained a scholarship in theology at the College of Navarre
  • 1355: Awarded degree of Master of Theology
  • 1356: Appointed Grand Master of the College of Navarre
  • 2 Nov 1359: Became "secretaire du roi"
  • 1361: While still grand master of Navarre, appointed Archdeacon of Bayeux
  • 23 Nov 1362: Became canon of the Cathedral of Rouen
  • 10 Feb 1363: Took on the additional duties of canon at the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris
  • 18 Mar 1364: Became dean of the Cathedral of Rouen
  • 3 Aug 1377: Attained the post of Bishop of Lisieux
  • Sept 1380: Took up residency at Lisieux
  • Died: 11 July 1382, Lisieux, France

Theorems and Definitions


  • 1345: Quaestiones super de generatione et corruptione
  • 1346 - 1348
    • Quaestiones super Euclidis Geometriam
    • Expositio et Quaestiones in Aristotelis se Anima
    • De causis mirabilium
    • Tabula problematum
  • 1348 - 1350
    • Parva naturalia (Quaestiones de sensu)
    • Quaestiones de sphaera
    • Quaestiones super septem libros physicorum Aristotelis
    • Quaestiones super de caelo
    • De perfectione specierum
    • Utrum omnes impressiones
    • Utrum dyameter alicuius quadrati
  • 1350 - 1360
    • Algorismus proportionum
    • Tractatus specialis de monocordi divisione
    • Tractatus de configurationibus qualitatum et motuum, in which he pre-empted Descartes in an invention of a type of coordinate geometry
    • De proportionibus proportionum, which contains the first use of a fractional exponent
    • Tractatus de commensurabilitate vel incommensurabilitate
  • 1351 - 1353: Questiones super libros Meteororum
  • 1353: Lectura super sententias
  • 1355: De origine, natura, jure et mutationibus monetarum
  • 1358: Traite de la mutation des monnaies
  • 1360: Contra iudicarios astronomos et principes in talibus se occupantes
  • 1360: De communicatione idiomatum
  • 1360: Utrum christus iustis legislator
  • 1360: Determinatio facta in resumpta in domo Navarre
  • 1363: Sermo coram Urbano V
  • 1365: De malis venturis super Ecclesiam
  • 1366: Livre des divinacions
  • 1368: De divinationibus
  • 1370: Quaestio contra divinatores horoscopios
  • 1368 - 1375: Traité de l'espere
  • 1371: Le livre des Politiques d'Aristote (translation of Aristotle from Latin into French)
  • 1372: Le livre des Ethiques d'Aristote (translation of Aristotle from Latin into French)
  • 1375: Le livre des Economique d'Aristote (translation of Aristotle from Latin into French)
  • 1377: Le livre du Ciel et du monde (translation of Aristotle from Latin into French)