Caille, Abbe de la; (Nicolas Louis de) Diverses Observations Astronomiques et Physiques, faites au Cap de Bonne-Esperance Pendant les annees 1751 & 1752 & partie de 1753. & Relation Abregee* du Voyage Fait Par Ordre du Roi, au Cap de Boone-Esperance. Hist. L'Academie Royale des Sci. Paris, 1755. Quarto, pp. 398-456, folded map and plate & pp. 481-536.
The works are bound in an archival folder. The binding is tight and very clean, the text, map and plate are very clean. In very good condition.
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Abbé Nicolas Louis de La Caille, (1713 – 1762) was a French astronomer. He was born at Rumigny (in present-day Ardennes),and attended school in Mantes-sur-Seine (now Mantes-la-Jolie). Afterwards he studied rhetoric and philosophy at the Collège de Lisieux and then theology at the Collège de Navarre. He was left destitute in 1731 by the death of his father, who had held a post in the household of the duchess of Vendôme. However he was supported in his studies by the Duc de Bourbon, his father's former patron.
After he graduated he did not accept ordination as a priest but took deacon's orders, becoming an Abbé. He concentrated thereafter on science, and, through the patronage of Jacques Cassini, obtained employment, first in surveying the coast from Nantes to Bayonne, then, in 1739, in remeasuring the French arc of the meridian. He received recognition for his work by admission to the Royal Academy of Sciences and appointment as Professor of mathematics in the Mazarin college, where he constructed a small observatory fitted for his own use. Among his students were Antoine Lavoisier and Jean Sylvain Bailly.?He was the author of a number of influential textbooks and a firm advocate of Newtonian gravitational theory.?His desire to determine the distances of the planets trigonometrically, using the longest possible baseline, led him to propose, in 1750, an expedition to the Cape of Good Hope where he could survey the southern sky. This was officially sanctioned by Roland-Michel Barrin de La Galissonière. There he constructed an observatory on the shore of Table Bay with the support of the Dutch Governor Ryk Tulbagh. The primary result of his two-year stay was a catalogue of nearly 10,000 southern stars, the production of which required observing every night for over a year. In the course of his survey he took note of 42 nebulous objects. He also achieved his aim of determining the lunar and solar parallaxes (Mars serving as an intermediary). This work required near-simultaneous observations from Europe which were carried out by Jérôme Lalande.?His surveys led him to introduce 14 new constellations all of which have been recognized. One of these was Mons Mensa, the only constellation named after a terrestrial feature (Table Mountain). His southern catalogue, called Coelum Australe Stelliferum, was published posthumously in 1763.?While at the Cape, La Caille determined the radius of the earth in the southern hemisphere. He set out a baseline in the Swartland plain north of present-day Darling. Using triangulation he then measured a 137 km arc of meridian between Cape Town and Aurora, determining the latitudes of the end points by means of astronomical observations. His result suggested that the earth was more flattened towards the south pole than towards the north. On La Caille’s map which accompanies this report, the vertical line is his “arc of the Meridian” and the triangles show how he xurveyed this length. His observations are contained in his papers published in?During his voyage to the southern hemisphere, La Caille became conscious of the difficulties in determining positions at sea. On his return to Paris he prepared the first set of tables of the Moon's position that was accurate enough for use in determining time and longitude by the method of 'Lunars' (Lunar distances) using the orbital theory of Clairaut. La Caille was in fact an indefatigable calculator. Apart from constructing astronomical ephemerides and mathematical tables, he calculated a table of eclipses for 1800 years. Lalande said of him that, during a comparatively short life, he had made more observations and calculations than all the astronomers of his time put together. The quality of his work earned him universal respect. In 1754, he was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. He was also an honorary member of the academies of Saint Petersburg and Berlin, the Royal Society of London and the Royal Society of Göttingen, and the Institute of Bologna.?In 1757 he published his Astronomiae Fundamenta Novissimus ..., containing a list of 400 bright stars with positions corrected for aberration. He carried out calculations on comet orbits and was responsible for giving Halley's Comet its name.