Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau
|Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau|
Engraving of Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau by François-Hubert Drouais. He is shown working on his Éléments d’architecture navale , his most famous work. On the shelf behind him, one can see a copy of his Traité des forêts.
20 July 1700|
|Died||13 August 1782
Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau (20 July 1700, Paris - 13 August 1782, Paris), was a French physician, naval engineer and botanist. As a botanist his standard abbreviation is Duhamel. Elected to the French Academy of Sciences in 1738, he served three times as its president, and left an important body of scientific work in such diverse fields as the construction and service of ships, fishing, the cultivation and storage of wheat, and silviculture. Named Inspector-General of the Marine in 1739, in 1741 he created a school of Marine science which in 1765 became the Ecole des Ingénieurs-Constructeurs, the forerunner of the modern Ecole du Génie Maritime. Following the work of Réaumur, in 1757 he released the Description des Arts et Métiers and opposed the writers of the Encyclopédie. His fondness for concrete problems, experimentation and popularization made him one of the forerunners of modern agronomy and silviculture.
Henri-Louis Duhamel du Monceau was born in Paris in 1700, the son of Alexandre Duhamel, lord of Denainvilliers.
Having been requested by the French Academy of Sciences to investigate a disease which was destroying the saffron plant in Gâtinais, he discovered the cause in a parasitical fungus which attached itself to the roots. This achievement gained him admission to the French Academy of Sciences in 1738. From then on until his death he busied himself chiefly with making experiments in plant physiology.
Having learned from Sir Hans Sloane that madder possesses the property of giving colour to the bones, he fed animals successively on food mixed and unmixed with madder; and he found that their bones in general exhibited concentric strata of red and white, while the softer parts showed in the meantime signs of having been progressively extended. From a number of experiments he was led to believe himself able to explain the growth of bones, and to demonstrate a parallel between the manner of their growth and that of trees. Along with the naturalist Buffon, he made numerous experiments on the growth and strength of wood, and experimented also on the growth of the mistletoe, on layer planting, on smut in corn, and others. He was probably the first, in 1736, to distinguish clearly between the alkalis, potash and soda.
From the year 1740 on he made meteorological observations, and kept records of the influence of the weather on agricultural production. For many years he was inspector-general of the marine, and applied his scientific experience to the improvement of naval construction.
He was involved in the foundation of the "Académie de marine de Brest", on 31 July 1752.
In his additions to l’Art de l’Épinglier (The Art of the Pin-Maker, 1761), Henri Louis Duhamel du Monceau wrote about the "division of labour":
- There is nobody who is not surprised of the small price of pins; but we shall be even more surprised, when we know how many different operations, most of them very delicate, are mandatory to make a good pin. We are going to go through these operations in a few words to stimulate the curiosity to know their detail; this enumeration will supply as many articles which will make the division of this labour. [...] The first operation is to have brass go through the drawing plate to calibrate it. [...]
This text is believed to have inspired Adam Smith for his famous work An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations published in 1776.
In 1767, du Monceau was elected a member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.
He died in Paris on 13 August 1782.
The poison of the Encyclopédie
The status of Inspector General of the Navy exposed Duhamel du Monceau to attacks by the Encyclopédistes who despised the Navy and proclaimed the glory and superiority of France came from its arts and literature:
Illustration of the Encyclopédie article "Rope" Duhamel wrote.
"This Duhamel has invented an infinity of machines which serve no pupose, has written and translated a multitude of books on agriculture, of which it is not known if they have any useful result, that is still awaited. "
- Denis Diderot Diderot seems to forget his debt to Duhamel du Monceau for the Encyclopédie, including the articles "Agriculture," "Rope," "Pipe" and "Sugar."
The succession of Grandjean Fouchy, perpetual secretary of the Academy of Sciences, clash sees supporters of Condorcet, led by d'Alembert, and those of the astronomer Bailly, led by Count de Buffon. In 1773, the appointment of Condorcet as deputy Grandjean Fouchy sees the triumph of the party of the philosophers against the use of naval officers linked to Duhamel. But in January 1775, supporters of Bailly, including Patrick D'Arcy and Jean-Charles de Borda, both naval officers make up a commission to monitor the work of the Secretary, that Condorcet considered censorship. To be elected, he must give up the pension ECU 1000 and submit an application in proper form to respect the rules of Académie2. Condorcet would later refer to this episode:
"Though he loved many innovations in science and devoted his life to introduce useful ones in the arts, he didn't like them in politics and even less in the statutes of the academies" 
- Condorcet in: Tribute Duhamel du Monceau, April 30, 1783
His works are nearly ninety in number and include many technical handbooks. The principal are:
- Traité des arbres et arbustes qui se cultivent en France (1755),
- Éléments de l'architecture navale, ou Traité pratique de la construction des vaisseaux (1752 and 1758),
- Traité géneral des pêches,
- Éléments d'agriculture,
- La Physique des arbres (1758),
- Traité des semis et plantations des arbres et de leur culture (1760),
- Histoire d'un insecte qui devore les grains de l'Angoumois (with Mathieu Tillet, published by H. L. Guérin & L. F. Delatour, Paris, 1762) Facsimile of the book
- Traité de l’exploitation des bois (1764),
- Traité des arbres fruitiers,
- a copy of which was one of the most expensive books ever sold at auction fetching $4.5 million.
- Traité du transport des bois et de leur conservation (1767).
- Traité Général des Pesches – A collection of plates from the book by Duhamel du Monceau and Jean-Louis de la Marre, considered one of the finest works on fishing and fisheries, from UBC Library Digital Collections
- The International Plant Names Index Botanist entry
- Quoiqu'il aimât beaucoup les innovations dans les sciences et qu'il se fût appliqué toute sa vie à en introduire d'utiles dans les arts, il ne les aimait point en politique et encore moins dans le régime intérieur des corps littéraires […].
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Duhamel du Monceau, Henri Louis". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press
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