Joseph-Nicolas Delisle bigraphy, stories - French astronomer

Joseph-Nicolas Delisle : biography

4 April 1688 - 11 September 1768

Joseph-Nicolas Delisle (4 April 1688 – 11 September 1768) was a French astronomer.


He was born in Paris, one of the 11 sons of Claude Delisle (1644–1720). Like many of his brothers, among them Guillaume Delisle, he initially followed classical studies. Soon however, he moved to astronomy under the supervision of Joseph Lieutaud and Jacques Cassini. In 1714 he entered the French Academy of Sciences as pupil of Giovanni Domenico Maraldi (1709–1788). Though he was a good scientist and member of a wealthy family he did not have much money.

In 1712 he set up an observatory at the Luxembourg Palace and after three years moved to the Hotel de Taranne. From 1719 to 1722 he was employed at the Royal observatory, before returning to his observatory at the Luxembourg Palace.

His life changed radically in 1725 when he was called by the Russian czar Peter the Great to Saint Petersburg to create and run the school of astronomy. He arrived there only in 1726, after the death of the czar. He became quite rich and famous, to such an extent that when he returned to Paris in 1747, he built a new observatory in the palace of Cluny, later made famous by Charles Messier. Also he received the title of Astronomer from the Academy. In Russia he prepared the map of the known North Pacific that was used by Vitus Bering.

He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1725 and a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences in 1749. In 1763 he retired to the Abbey of St Genevieve, dying in Paris sometime in 1768.


Delisle is mostly known for the Delisle scale, a temperature scale he invented in 1732. The crater Delisle on the Moon, and the asteroid 12742 Delisle are named after him.

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