Jacques Pelletier du Mans

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Jacques Pelletier du Mans
Born 1517 (1517)
Le Mans, France
Died 1582 (1583)
Paris, France
Occupation Humanist, Poet, Mathematician

Jacques Pelletier du Mans, also spelled Peletier, in Latin: Peletarius, (1517–1582) was a humanist, poet and mathematician of the French Renaissance.

Born at Le Mans into a bourgeois family, he studied at the Collège de Navarre (in Paris) where his brother Jean was a professor of mathematics and philosophy. He subsequently studied law and medicine, frequented the literary circle around Marguerite of Navarre and from 1541-43 was secretary to René du Bellay. In 1541 he published the first French translation of Horace's Ars poetica and during this period he also published numerous scientific and mathematical treatises.

In 1547 he produced a funeral oration for Henry VIII of England and published his first poems "Œuvres poétiques", which included translations from the first two cantos of Homer's Odyssey and the first book of Virgil's Georgics, twelve Petrarchian sonnets, three Horacian odes and a Martial-like epigram; this poetry collection also included the first published poems of Joachim Du Bellay and Pierre de Ronsard (Ronsard would include Jacques Peletier into his list of revolutionary contemporary poets "La Pléiade"). He then began to frequent a humanist circle around Théodore de Bèze, Jean Martin, Denis Sauvage.

Jacques Pelletier tried to reform French spelling (which in the Renaissance had, through a misguided attempt to model French words on their Latin roots, acquired many inconsistencies (see Middle French)) in a treatise (1550) advocating a phonetic-based spelling using new typographic signs which Pelletier would continue to use in all his published works (because of this system, "Peletier" is consistently spelled with one "l").

After years spent in Bordeaux, Poitiers, Piedmont (where Peletier may have been the tutor of the son of Maréchal de Brissac) and Lyon (where he frequented the poets and humanists Maurice Scève, Louise Labé, Olivier de Magny and Pontus de Tyard). In 1555 he published a manual of poetic composition, "Art poétique français", a Latin oration calling for peace from Henry II of France and emperor Charles V and a new collection of poetry, L'Amour des amours (consisting of a sonnet cycle and a series of encyclopedic poems describing meteors, planets and the heavens) which would influence poets Guillaume du Bartas and Jean-Antoine de Baïf.

His last years were spent in travels (Savoy, Germany, Switzerland, maybe Italy, and various regions in France) and in publishing numerous works in Latin on algebra, geometry and mathematics, medicine (a refutation of Galen, a work on the Plague). In 1572 he was briefly director of the College of Aquitaine (Bordeaux), but, bored by the position, he resigned. During this period he was friends with Michel de Montaigne and Pierre de Brach. In 1579 he returned to Paris and was named director of the College of Le Mans. A final collection of poetry "Louanges" was published in 1581.

Pelletier died at Paris in July or August 1582.

New naming convention for large numbers[edit]

While maintaining the original system of the French mathematician Nicolas Chuquet (1484) for the names of large numbers, Jacques Pelletier promoted milliard for 1012 which had been used earlier by Budaeus. In the late 17th century, milliard was subsequently reduced to 109. This convention is used widely in long scale countries.

  The Chuquet-Pelletier system (long scale)  
  Base 10     Systematics    Chuquet     Peletier       SI Prefix   
    10  0     million 0
unit
unit
(none)
    10  3     Million 0.5
thousand
thousand
k (kilo)
    10  6     Million 1
Million
Million
M (mega)
    10  9     Million 1.5
 thousand million 
Milliard
G (giga)
    10 12     Million 2
Billion
Billion
T (tera)
    10 15     Million 2.5
thousand billion
Billiard
P (peta)
    10 18     Million 3
Trillion
Trillion
E (exa)
    10 21     Million 3.5
thousand trillion
Trilliard
Z (zetta)
    10 24     Million 4
Quadrillion
Quadrillion
Y (yotta)

References[edit]

  • (French) Simonin, Michel, ed. Dictionnaire des lettres françaises - Le XVIe siècle. Paris: Fayard, 2001. ISBN 2-253-05663-4
  • Revue Historique et Archéologique du Maine, Le Mans, 2000, passim.

See also[edit]