Joseph Louis Lagrange

Joseph Louis Lagrange is a renowned mathematician and astronomer. Born at the beginning of the 18th century, this Italian-born scientist was one of the greatest minds of his time. His great-grandfather had moved to Turin from France and went on to marry an Italian woman. Being such a brilliant mind, Joseph is claimed by both Italy and France as a citizen. His initial steps in his journey into education saw him sent in school to study law. While in university, he was captivated by a paper written by Edmond Halley, who was an English mathematician and astronomer. Joseph’s interest in mathematics prompted him to start studying the subject on his own.

The scientist’s mathematical capability would see him published at a relatively young age of eighteen. He was so good, that by nineteen he was an assistant professor, teaching mathematics in Turin at the Royal Military Academy. Progressing in the field, the Berlin Academy invited Lagrange, where he taught for twenty years. Joseph’s next significant career move was to the Paris Academy of Sciences, where he saw out the rest of his career. This admission to the Paris Academy of Science was on the invitation of French royalty, by Louis XVI. The scientist was honored by subsequent governments as well, even after the French Revolution. Napoleon made Joseph Louis Lagrange a senator.

Early Life and career

Born on the 25th of January, 1726, he was the son of Giuseppe Francesco Lodovico Lagrange. Joseph’s father was a reputable government officer, serving as the treasurer in the Department of Public Works and Fortifications. The mathematician’s mother was a doctor, coming from the nearby town of Cambiano. Joseph was the firstborn among his siblings. Growing up, he showed a fondness for his French family name, referring to himself as Lodovico Lagrange. He became a law student at the University of Turin at a relatively young age.

Lagrange’s initial study into mathematics was all by his own and studied by himself for a year. The youngster was so good, that he published his first paper on 23rd July 1754. This initial publication, he later realized, was already circulated by two other scientists. With the threat looming that he may face accusations of copying someone’s work, he pushed even harder to come up with something unique and original. Joseph’s next piece was the theory that laid the foundation for the study of calculus, and he sent it to Leonhard Euler, a Swiss mathematician. Lagrange’s appointment as assistant professor of mathematics came about in September 1755.

The brilliant young man was only 19 years old at the time.

The significant fields he taught were mechanics and calculus. With a personality that craved for unique work, he sought original discoveries and worked to come up with theories that were entirely new and unique. Joseph’s approach to teaching wasn’t conventional, he encouraged imagination and abstract thoughts, and his style remained unpopular. His way of reasoning and impatience caused problems.

With such a brilliant start to his mathematics and teaching career, he published numerous papers on various facets of science such as calculus of variations, linear differential equations, calculus of probabilities, and the foundations of dynamics. This great mathematician would also make significant contributions to fluid mechanics and the study of sound on orbits of various planets. Lagrange’s work on multiple areas of mathematics would see him honored with accolades and positions of authority by the ruling governments of his time. The development of the metric system was one of his most significant contributions to science, with the introduction of the meter and kilogram as units of measurement.

Personal Life

This great scientist married to Vittoria Conti, who was his cousin, in 1767. No children were born in this marriage. His second marriage was to Renee-Francoise-Adelaide, a 24-year-old daughter of his colleague.
Joseph Louis Lagrange died on the 10th of April 1813, in Paris.


As a mathematician, Lagrange was obsessed with discovering unique theories and concepts of mathematics. This pursuit for discoveries remained motivated by endless imagination, hard work, and interest in a wide range of branches of mathematics. The self-drive demonstrated in his research and discoveries ensured the foundations for many areas of mathematics. It is important to note that for excellence and innovation, self-discipline and the urge to pursue a wide range of interests remains very important.