Pierre-Simon Laplace was born on March 23, 1749 and is well remembered for his many mathematical contributions. In addition to being a mathematician, Laplace was also an astronomer and is credited with being one of the founders of mathematical astronomy and the study of statistics. His most famous published work, Celestial Mechanics, is considered pivotal to the field. This work changed the study of mechanics from being geometry-based to being calculus-based. He is also credited with creating the Bayesian interpretation of probability and for developing the nebular hypothesis of the solar system.
Pierre-Simon Laplace published important works in 1771 that discussed differential equations and finite differences. However, even while he was publishing these works, he was already making discoveries in probability and statistics related fields. Two of his most famous published papers dealt with mathematical issues. The first, known as the “Memoir sur la probabilite des causes par les evenements” in French was published in 1744. Two years later, in 1997, he would publish his second paper which discussed statistical theories, celestial mechanics, and the stability of the solar system.
Pierre-Simon Laplace is also credited with the development of the probability generating function, which he first discussed in a paper published in 1779. This function treats the successive values of any other function as a coefficient when used to expand another function with a different variable. This was a huge development in his day and this function is still used to solve problems today by some of the world’s most advanced mathematicians.
As discussed above, Laplace also discovered several important truths about probability laws. Among these include the fact that probability can best be described as the ratio of favored events to possible events. This basic fact inspired the understanding of several more facts about probability and led Laplace to develop six very important laws or rules about the field. These are still referred to.
Despite these many important contributions, there have been few honors or distinctions given to Laplace, something that many modern mathematicians and scientists feel is unfair and are trying to change. Among his honors include an Asteroid named the Asteroid 4628 Laplace; having his name engraved on the Eiffel tower, an honor shared by only seventy two people, and having the international Europa Jupiter System Mission named after him. It is hoped that as more and more people realize the importance of his many contributions, Laplace will receive even more honor and recognition. After all, few other men have made such important contributions to mathematics and to society, especially not in the day and age in which Laplace lived. He is an inspiration to all people that greatness can be reached if the mind is opened.