8 February 1727|
|Died||7 November 1817
Windsor, Berkshire, England
Jean-André Deluc was born in Geneva. His family had come to Switzerland from Lucca, Italy, in the 15th century. His mother was Françoise Huaut. His father, Jacques-François Deluc, had written in refutation of Bernard Mandeville and other rationalistic writers.
Jean-André received an excellent education, chiefly in mathematics and natural science; in mathematics he was a student of Georges-Louis Le Sage. He then engaged in business, which occupied a large part of his first adult years, with the exception of scientific investigation in the Alps. With the help of his brother Guillaume-Antoine, he built a splendid collection of mineralogy and natural history.
Deluc also took part in politics. In 1768, sent on an embassy to the duc de Choiseul in Paris, he succeeded in gaining the duke's friendship. In 1770 he became a member of the Council of Two Hundred in Geneva.
Three years later, business reverses forced him to leave his native town; he returned, briefly, only once. The change freed him for scientific pursuits; with little regret he moved to England in 1773, where he was appointed reader to Queen Charlotte, a position he held for forty-four years and that afforded him both leisure and income.
In the latter part of his life he was given leave to make several tours of Switzerland, France, Holland and Germany. At the beginning of his German tour (1798–1804), he was distinguished with an honorary professorship of philosophy and geology at the University of Göttingen. Back to England, he undertook a geological tour of the country (1804–1807).
In 1773 Deluc was made a fellow of the Royal Society; he was a correspondent of the French Academy of Sciences and a member of several other learned societies. He died at Windsor, Berkshire, England, in 1817, after nearly 70 years of research. Deluc, an impact crater on the Moon, was given his name.
Observations and theory
Deluc's main interests were geology and meteorology; Georges Cuvier mentions him as an authority on the former subject. His major geological work, Lettres physiques et morales sur les montagnes et sur l'histoire de la terre et de l'homme (6 vol., 1778-1780), was dedicated to Queen Charlotte. He published volumes on geological travels: in northern Europe (1810), in England (1811), and in France, Switzerland and Germany (1813).
Deluc noticed the disappearance of heat in the thawing of ice about the same time that Joseph Black made it the foundation of his hypothesis of latent heat. He ascertained that water was densest at about 40 °F (4 °C) (and not at the freezing temperature); he was the originator of the theory, later reactivated by John Dalton, that the quantity of water vapour contained in any space is independent of the presence or density of the air, or of any other elastic fluid.
His Lettres sur l'histoire physique de la terre (Paris, 1798), addressed to Johann Friedrich Blumenbach, contain an essay on the existence of a General Principle of Morality. They also give an interesting account of conversations with Voltaire and Rousseau. Deluc was an ardent admirer of Francis Bacon, on whose writings he published two works: Bacon tel qu'il est (Berlin, 1800), showing the bad faith of the French translator, who had omitted many passages favourable to revealed religion, and Précis de la philosophie de Bacon (2 vols 8vo, Paris, 1802), giving an interesting view of the progress of natural science. Lettres sur le christianisme (Berlin and Hanover, 1803) was a controversial correspondence with Wilhelm Abraham Teller of Berlin in regard to the Mosaic cosmogony. His Traité élémentaire de géologie (Paris, 1809, translated into English by Henry de la Fite the same year) was principally intended as a refutation of James Hutton and John Playfair. They had shown that geology was driven by the operation of internal heat and erosion, but their system required much more time than Deluc's Mosaic variety of neptunism allowed.
Many other papers are in the Transactions and in the Philosophical Magazine for November 1817.
Deluc dedicated a large part of his activity to perfecting or inventing measuring instruments.
He devised a portable barometer for use in geological expeditions. His Recherches sur les modifications de l'atmosphère (2 vols. 4to, Geneva, 1772; 2nd ed., 4 vols. Paris, 1784) contain experiments on moisture, evaporation and the indications of hygrometers and thermometers. He applied the barometer to the determination of heights. The Philosophical Transactions published his account of a new hygrometer, which resembled a mercurial thermometer, with an ivory bulb, which expanded by moisture, and caused the mercury to descend. He gave the first correct rules for measuring heights with the help of a barometer. Deluc advocated the use of mercury, instead of alcohol, in thermometers.
In 1809 he sent a long paper to the Royal Society on separating the chemical from the electrical effect of the dry pile, a form of Voltaic pile, with a description of the electric column and aerial electroscope, in which he advanced opinions contradicting the latest discoveries of the day; they were deemed inappropriate to admit into the Transactions. The dry column described by Deluc was constructed by various scientists and his improvement of the dry pile has been regarded as his most important work, although he was not in fact its inventor.
Scriptural and observational data
The last decades of Deluc's life were occupied with theological considerations. In his controversy with Hutton, "while never arguing that Hutton was an atheist, Deluc did accuse him of failing to counter atheism sufficiently".
He took care in reconciling observational data and the Scriptures considered as a description of the history of the world. In his Lettres physiques et morales he explained the six days of the creation as epochs preceding the current state of the globe, and attributed the deluge to the filling up of cavities in the interior of the earth.
The subject is discussed at length by Martina Kölbl-Ebert in Geology and Religion.
- An elementary treatise on geology, p. PR1, at Google Books (1809); translated by Henry De La Fite (d. 1831).
- Geological travels in some parts of France, Switzerland, and Germany: vol. 1 (1813) (nos. 1–453), vol. 2 (1813) (nos. 454–844), vol. 3 (1811) (nos. 935–1417) on Google Books
Lists of online works
- List of online works on e-rara.ch. (English) (French) (German)
- Articles published in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society. (English) (French)
Notes and references
- Always generally spelled "Deluc". In 1820, Michaud's article about Jean-André De Luc is under "Luc", while the article about his brother Guillaume-Antoine is under "Deluc".
- "Deluc" = "De Luc" = "De Lucques" (same pronunciation); "Lucques" is the French name of the city of Lucca.
- Jean-Jacques Rousseau, while a friend of his father's, considered the personage and his writings as boring: Histoire de la vie et des ouvrages de J.-J. Rousseau, vol. 1, p. 383. See also Miller, James. Rousseau: dreamer of democracy, Hackett Publishing, 1984, p. 51
- The collection later came into the hands of his nephew, also named Jean-André (1763–1847) and a writer on geology as well, who enlarged it. It is now at the Natural History Museum of Geneva.
- No less than ten times in his Rapport historique sur les progrès des sciences naturelles...
- Especially "Remarques sur les baromètres destinés au transport". Recherches sur les modifications de l'atmosphère, vol. 1, p. 214
- "Account of a new hygrometer" (1773); "A second paper on hygrometry" (1791)
- Deluc published a two-part article on the subject in the Phil. Trans.: "Barometrical observations on the depth of the mines in the Hartz". Part 1 (doi:10.1098/rstl.1777.0023); Part 2 (doi:10.1098/rstl.1779.0032)
- Nicholson's Journal, 1810
- Dean, Dennis R. James Hutton and the history of geology, p. 81
- See for example the passage starting on page 9, "Views of J.-A. Deluc's geological ideas", of Martina Kölbl-Ebert book's Geology and religion: a history of harmony and hostility. Geological Society, 2009 ISBN 1862392692, ISBN 9781862392694
- There is some confusion in the numbering of volumes by Google Books (August 2013).
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Harrison, William Jerome. "Deluc, Jean André". Dictionary of National Biography. London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
- Heilbron, John L.; Sigrist, René (ed.). Jean-André Deluc, historian of earth and man. Geneva: Slatkine 2011.
- Michaud, Joseph-François; Michaud, Louis Gabriel. "Luc (Jean-André de)". Biographie universelle, ancienne et moderne, vol. 25. 1820
- Sigrist, René. "Deluc, Jean-André". Dictionnaire historique de la Suisse (French). Also available in German and Italian.