Jean-Baptiste Louis Romè de L'Isle (1736-1790)
The 18th century saw
the publication of the original seminal work on mathematical
crystallography by Romè de Lisle which established the precise
compositional reasons for the mysterious differences between steel, cast
iron and wrought iron.
Romè de L'Isle, a French mineralogist, was born on the 26th of August
1736 at Gray, in Haute-Sane. As the secretary of a company of artillery
he visited the East Indies, and was taken prisoner by the English and
held in captivity for three years. He had an early interest in chemistry
together with Balthazar Sage and then developed a passion for
mineralogy, collecting a world class collection of crystals. He followed
the ideas of Carl Linnaeus (1707-1778), the Father of Taxonomy, and
proposed that it was possible to classify crystals according to their
external form, an idea, which at the time, caused great opposition. He
was the author of Essay of Crystallography (1772), the second edition of
which, regarded as his principal work and was published as
Crystallography (3 vols. and atlas, 1783). In his Essay he employed the
descriptive concepts of "primitive forms" and "truncations". These works
enabled the measurement of crystals and made it possible to precisely
measure the plane angles of the crystalline faces, leading him to state
his "law of constancy of the angles". Crystallography now had a
quantitative parameter, the respective slope of the faces, from which
classifications, on the one hand, and the theories of the structure, on
the other hand, were able to develop. He later broke with Sage and
Bertholon but remained distinguished for his researches on mineralogy
and crystallography. He died at Paris on the 7th of March 1790.
Balthazar George Sage (1740-1824)
Balthazar Sage was born in Paris on 7 May 1740, the son of a pharmacist.
He studied at the Mazarin college and was devoted to the study of
mineralogy and docimastic chemistry (determining the nature and quantity
of metallic substances contained in any ore or mineral). Through
influence with Louis XV, Sage was admitted to the Academy of Science at
30 years of age. Sage taught analytical chemistry at the Academy of
Sciences where his incompetence was an embarrassment. There were some
who did not think he merited the distinction. Grimaux presented him as
being "an awkward experimenter, whimsical imagination, whose published
writings piled up errors, many, many, many errors". He was known
for his experiments with the volatile alkali of fluoride as a remedy for
asphyxiation and snake bites. A study to which Bertholon makes
reference in this letter.
Sage joined with Monnet to denounce the theories of
Lavoisier, and those of Haüy. Together they made the last futile defense
in favour of the phlogistic theory, at a time when all other scientists
had discarded it in favor of Lavoisier's theories. Sage went blind in
1805 and was stripped of his lifetime pension following changes in the
political climate. He died in poverty and disregard in 1824.
The major capstone to his career was not scientific but
rather his dominating role in the creation of the School of the Mines of
Paris in 1783. Sage was the first Principal of the Mines where he taught
mineralogy and docimasy from 1783 to 1790. From 1760 Sage had assembled
one of the finest mineral collections in Paris, France; he sold to the
King for a lifetime stipend of 5,000 livres per year. His collection
remained intact at the Royal Mint until 1824, when they were split
between the Museum of Natural History and the School of Mines.
Bertholon de Saint-Lazare (1742-1800)
A most amazing curate. Born
in 1842 he entered the Jesuit Seminary at Bezier. He later was a
professor of experimental physics for the Montpellier Academy of Science
and the States General of Languedoc. In 1789 Abbé Pierre Bertholon,
described a keyboard instrument called the Clavecin Magnétique (Magnetic
Harpsichord), which utilized electricity and is perhaps the first
proposed electric musical instrument. He constructed experiments and
published works on the effects of electricity on plants, humans, and
electrical conduction being a correspondent of Benjamin Franklin in
America. He suggested a device to prevent earthquakes and volcanoes,
believing them to be connected to electrical imbalances. He published
works on the Aurora Borealis as well as on the electrical properties of
meteors. He corresponded with all the major scientists of his era,
sometimes taking the wrong side of hotly disputed theories. Bertholon
was also involved in Robespierre's first significant case against the
inventor Vissery (which he won) who was brought to trial for erecting a lightning rod
which was considered a public menace.
Vissery's attorney Buissart corresponded with Abbé Bertholon to get
supporting scientific testimony and
described him as an experimental physicist with "an apostolic zeal for
electricity". Bertholon declared the guilty verdict an “ignominious pretension
and without any foundation to claim one cannot erect a lightning rod
without police authorization,” and sent a copy of the findings to
Benjamin Franklin in America.
Image from one of Bertholon's Treatise wherein he introduced
electrical fields among plants to measure its effect on
from one of Bertholon's Treatise wherein he believed disease could be
treated by exposure to electricity]
as plants respond to music, they also respond to wavelengths of the
electromagnetic spectrum. In the late 1770's, Nollet, Toaldo, and
Bertholon gave strong proof that "electricity somehow had profound
effects on the growth functions of life forms." Toaldo proved that
plants grew better near a lightning rod. Bertholon invented an
electrovegetometer to collect electricity from the air, via an antenna,
which was then passed to his plants.
As a sidebar: Not all considered the good Abbé a godsend. In 1790,
Count Alessandro Volta (1745 - 1827), father of the Volt and the voltaic
pile (the first battery) delivered a graduation speech at the University
of Pavia, in Italy where he was the Professor of Physics. He was in
competition with Giovanni Battista Beccaria the Professor of
Physics at the University of Turin, in Italy, for pre-eminence in the
field of electrical studies. He made note that there was now another
“fanatical worshipper” to take into account, a new admirer of Beccaria,
another one of the “many or few followers” of his, abbé Pierre
Bertholon, who in 1787 had published a work bearing the eloquent title
of De l’électricité des météores. Bertholon and Beccaria
followed Benjamin Franklin's theory of fluidity relative to electrical
Document – Signed and Dated: September 1, 1727
Text Translated in English as Follows:
My dear Sir,
It has been quite some time that I have been waiting
for news from you, it seems to me that I wrote to you twice without
having had a response. I fear that you have been sick, and I beg you to
set aside my fears. After you give me news of your health, give me news
regarding your work, that’s to say, your successes, for your old ones
are still renowned.
I asked you in my two last letters 1st, your feeling
for this spongy iron sample that I sent to you the last time, 2nd, the
feeling of our friend Mr. Sage who didn’t tell me anything. I recently
sent you, a packet and you will probably receive it several days after
this letter, if you haven’t already received it beforehand, you will
receive, I said, a little packet containing 3 articles, marked N°1, N°2,
N°3; The 1st one appears to be a ferruginous pyrite that I am
decomposing, it seems to me to prove your doctrine well. The 2nd one,
you will not be surprised, is an earthy iron sample having the form of a
plant, the 3rd one is a lava rock with swirl(?). Give me your opinion,
as well as Mr. Sage’s, on these articles. The packet is doubled, there
is one for him if you would have to the goodness to give it to him.
When will he [Balthazar George Sage] give his 4th
edition of the volatile fluorine alkali that I really made known here? I
would be charmed if you would give me, in your 2nd letter, the address
of this secretary of Mr. Amelot, friend of Mr. Sage, so that I may write
him this way if need be; I forgot his name. On the second day, I will
send to you a new, beautiful sample.
Note for me, if you would, what you think of my
two theses on the Aurora Borealis, that you saw in the physics journal
at the end of last year, observations, criticisms, would do me better
I wrote to you two days ago, but this letter that
I don’t count here, was given to an able Swedish director of iron mines
of Sweden, Mr. de Stockenshom. I spoke to him concerning you and your
work and your interesting office, and my letter and a letter of
recommendation concerning you. You will not see it but in several
months. I also gave him a letter for Mr. Sage. When I see an instructed
foreigner, and I see them often, I do not miss, during the course of the
conversation, [the opportunity] to mention to them my intense sentiments
of admiration which I hold for Messrs. de Romé de L'Isle and Sage.
Did they sell the Offices of Natural History this year
in Paris? If it is so, save for me the complete catalogue, which I will
then pick up at your home.
Excuse me if I send you but a half-letter; it is
because I am putting two others in a friendly letter, and I don’t want
the package to be too big.
Remember, Sir, one of your admirers, and one of your
most affection servants.
at Bezier, 20 June 1779
Monsieur de Romé de L’Isle, member of several science academies on the
rue Neuve de Bons Enfants, Home of Mr. D’Enneri.
Docketed From: Mr. M Abbé Bertholon, of several academies, professor of
theology at the Seminary of Béziers in Béziers.
Document – Signed and Dated: September 1, 1727
Text Transcribed in French as Follows:
Il y a bien longtemps, Mon très-cher monsieur, que
j’attends de vos nouvelles il me semble que je vous ai écrit deux fois
sans avoir de réponse. Je crains que vous n’ayez été malade, et je vous
prie de me tirer de peine. Après m’avoir donné des nouvelles de votre
santé, donnez-moi de celles qui regardent vos travaux, c’est-à-dire vos
succès, car vos veilles sont toujours couronnées.
Je vous demandai dans mes deux dernières 1e votre sentiment sur cette
mine de fer spongieuse que je vous ai envoyée ci-devant. 2e le sentiment
de notre ami Mr. Sage, qui ne m’en a rien dit. Je vous ai envoyé depuis
peu, par occasion, et probablement vous le recevrez quelques jours après
cette lettre, si vous ne l’avez reçu peu avant; vous recevrez, dis-je,
un petit paquet contenant 3 articles, marqués N°1, N°2, N°3 ; Le N°1
paraît une pyrite ferrugineuse qui se décompose, elle me paraît bien
prouver votre doctrine. Le N°2 ne vous paraît-il pas aussi une mine de
fer terreuse ayant figure de plante; le N°3 est une lave avec schorl.
Donnez-moi aussi votre avis, ainsi que celui de Mr. Sage sur ces
articles. Le paquet est double, il y en a un pour lui que vous aurez la
bonté de lui remettre.
Quand est-ce qu’il donnera sa 4e édition de l’alkali volatil fluor; j’ai
fait beaucoup connaître ici cet ouvrage? Je serai charmé que vous me
donneriez dans votre 2e lettre l’adresse de sa secrétaire de Mr. Amelot,
ami de Mr. Sage, afin que je puisse lui écrire pour ce moyen dans le
besoin; j’ai oublié son nom. Je vous envoyerai au 2e jour une belle mine
Marquez moi, s’il vous plaît, ce que vous pensez de mes deux mémoires
sur l’aurore Boréale, que vous avez vus dans le journal de physique, à
la fin de l’année dernière, des observations critiques me feraient
encore plus de plaisir que des éloges.
Je vous ai écrit depuis deux jours, mais cette lettre que je ne compte
point ci, a été remise à un habile suédois, directeur des mines de fer
de Suède, Mr. De Stockenshom; je lui ai beaucoup parlé de vous de vos
ouvrages, et de votre intéressant cabinet, et ma lettre et une lettre de
recommandation auprès de vous. Vous ne le verrez que dans quelques mois.
Je lui aussi donné une lettre pour Mr. Sage. Quand je vois ici
quelqu’étranger instruit, et j’en vois souvent, je ne manque pas dans le
cours de la conversation de leur faire part des vifs sentiments
d’admiration dont je suis pénétré pour Mssrs. De Romé de l’Isle et Sage.
A- t-on vendu cette année à Paris des cabinets d’histoire naturelle? Si
cela est, conservez moi le catalogue le mieux fourni, que je ferai
retirer ensuite de chez-vous.
Excusez-moi sue je ne vous envoie qu’une demi-lettre; c’est que j’en
mets deux autres dans une lettre d’ami, et je ne veux pas rendre le
paquet trop gros.
Souvenez vous, Monsieur, d’un de vos admirateurs, et d’un de vos plus
à Beziers le 20 juin 1779
Monsieur de Romé de L’Isle, membre de plusieurs Académies de Sciences,
de rue Neuve de Bons Enfants, maison de Mr. D’Enneri.
A Mr. M. l’abbé Bertholon, de plusieurs Académies, professeur en
theologique au séminaire de Béziers à Béziers.
Letter is 4 pages on 1 folded sheet
≈ 230mm x
Each page measures ≈ 115mm x 180mm.
Text on two pages - address on one page - docketing on one page. Condition: Very Fine Batonne Laid Paper w/
Some light induced staining on front cover. The letter is written
on two pages and there is an address leaf as well as a docketing
notation likely in de L'Isle's hand.
by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd. .................................
$ Listed on eBay