Terre Napoleon. A History Of French Explorations And Projects In Australia By Ernest Scott














































































 -  He was, like some of whom Browning has written, a person of
some importance in his day, and his writings - Page 140
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He Was, Like Some Of Whom Browning Has Written, A "Person Of Some Importance In His Day," And His Writings On Physics Are Still Mentioned With Respect In Works Devoted To The History Of Science.

But he is perhaps chiefly remembered as the savant whom Frederick the Great attracted to his court during a period of aloofness from the scintillating Voltaire, and who consequently became a writhing target for the jealous ridicule of that waspish wit.

Poor Maupertuis, unhappy in his exit from life, would appear to have been restless after it, for his ghost is averred to have stalked in the hall of the Academy of Berlin, and to have been seen by a brother professor there, the remarkable phenomenon being solemnly recorded in the Transactions of that learned body.* (* See Sir Walter Scott's Demonology and Witchcraft, Letter 1.) But of far more practical importance than the appearance of his perturbed shade, was the effect of his Petites Lettres, which suggested twelve projects for the advancement of knowledge, one of which was the promotion of discovery in the southern hemisphere.

Shortly after its publication, Maupertuis' proposition was discussed by a society of accomplished students meeting at Dijon, the ancient capital of Burgundy. A member of the Society to whom much deference was paid, was Charles de Brosses, lawyer, scholar, and President of the Parlement of the Province.* (* The local parliaments were abolished in the reign of Louis XV, reinstated by Louis XVI, and finally swept away in the stormy demolition of ancient institutions to make ground for the constitution of 1791.) De Brosses was an industrious student and writer, the translator of Sallust into French, and author of several valuable historical and philological works, including a number of learned papers which may be read - or not - in the stout calf-bound quartos enshrining the records of the Academy of Inscriptions.* (* His papers in that regiment of tomes range over a period of fifty years, from 1746 to 1796.

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