Sébastien Truchet

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Sébastien Truchet
Sebastien truchet.jpg
Sébastien Truchet
Born 1657
Lyon, France
Died February 5, 1729
Nationality France
Fields Mathematician, hydraulics, graphics and typography
Institutions France under Louis XIV
Known for Proportion of typefaces, plane tiling, sundials, channels, weapons
Influenced Pierre Simon Fournier, François-Ambroise Didot, Giovanni Battista Bodoni

Jean Truchet (1657 – February 5, 1729), also known as Père Sébastien, was an eclectic Dominican priest born in Lyon and lived in Louis XIV times. He is known for being active in areas such as mathematics, hydraulics, graphics, typography, and for many inventions.


Truchet was born in 1657.

In 1692, he was one of four scientists commissioned by French minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert to compile the Description des Métiers, a compendium on the arts and crafts; the others were Jean-Paul Bignon (the head of the commission), Jacques Jaugeon, and Gilles Filleau des Billettes. Truchet was elected as honoraire of the Académie française in 1699.[1]

Truchet died on February 5, 1729, with the Description des Métiers still incomplete.


As typographer Truchet studied for the Description des Métiers the proportions of typefaces, using a system of measurements derived from silversmithing based on 12ths of inches, and later on based on much smaller fractions of inches. However, his system had unnecessarily large precision compared to the accuracy at which fonts could be cut, and did not match the sizes of the fonts then in use. After Truchet's death, Pierre-Simon Fournier derided Truchet's system, and devised a similar system of his own that used a more appropriate length scale and was a better fit to existing fonts; this work led to the concept of a typographic point. Truchet and the other commissioners also designed a font, the Romain le roi, that influenced Philippe Grandjean and through him the popular Times New Roman fonts. Other typographic innovations in the work of the commission involved the use of both bitmap and vector representations of lettershapes, tabulations of font metrics, and oblique font faces.[1]

As hydraulics expert he designed most of the French canals.[citation needed]

Inspired by decorations he had seen on the canals, Truchet studied decorative patterns on ceramic tiles.[1] One particular pattern that he studied involved square tiles split by a diagonal line into two triangles, decorated in contrasting colors. By placing these tiles in different orientations with respect to each other, as part of a square tiling, Truchet observed that many different patterns could be formed. This model of pattern formation was later taken up by Fournier, and is now known to mathematicians and designers as Truchet tiling.[2]

At the second public meeting of the Académie française, in 1699, Truchet spoke on the motion of falling bodies,[3] and nearly 20 years later he was one of several scientists to confirm Newton's model of the separation of white light into colors.[4]

He is also known for his expertise as a watchmaker,[5] and for his inventions concerning sundials, weapons and tools for transplanting large trees within the Versailles gardens.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b c André, Jacques; Girou, Denis (1999). "Father Truchet, the typographic point, the Romain du roi, and tilings". TUGboat 20 (1): 8–14. 
  2. ^ Smith, Cyril Stanley (1987). "The tiling patterns of Sebastian Truchet and the topology of structural hierarchy". Leonardo 20 (4): 373–385. doi:10.2307/1578535.  With a translation of Truchet's text by Pauline Boucher.
  3. ^ Sturdy, David J. (1995). Science and Social Status: The Members of the Académie Des Sciences 1666–1750. Boydell Press. p. 294. ISBN 9780851153957. 
  4. ^ Rowlinson, J. S. (2002). Cohesion: A Scientific History of Intermolecular Forces. Cambridge University Press. p. 26. ISBN 9780521810081. 
  5. ^ Ilin, M. (1932). What time is it? The story of clocks. George Routledge & Sons. p. 83. . Translated by Béatrice Kincead.

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