Pierre Rémond de Montmort


Born: 27 October 1678 in Paris, France
Died: 7 October 1719 in Paris, France


Pierre Rémond (only later to become de Montmort) parents were François Montmort and Marguerite Rallu. Pierre was born into a noble family and was the second of his parents three sons. His father's advice was that he should study law and François had everything orgainised for his son with a vacant magistracy ready for him to step into after he had qualified. Pierre, however, was rebellious and chose not to follow his father's advice. He left home at the age of eighteen and decided to go abroad. He went to England and toured round the country, before moving on to the Low Countries, then going to Germany where again visiting a number of places. He visited his cousin in Germany and while hiving in his home read Malebranche's La Recherche de la Vérité. This seems to have affected the young man markedly and Montmort decided that he should make his peace with his father. By the age of 21 he was back in France where he began to study under Malebranche. His father died in the following year and so at the age of 22 Montmort found himself a very wealthy young man.

Particularly given Montmort earlier behaviour, one might have expected him to live a life of leisure once he had the financial means to do so. However he seems to have never looked back after his change of heart while living with his cousin, and continued to pursue his studies with vigour. Malebranche taught Montmort philosophy and Descartes' physics. Montmort went on to study the latest mathematics, in particular studying algebra and geometry.

When Pierre returned to France in 1699 he came into a large inheritance from his father. He used this wealth to purchase an estate at Montmort (and therefore became Pierre Rémond de Montmort). He lived most of his life in Château de Montmort on his estate and often invited top mathematicians to visit him. For instance Nicolaus(I) Bernoulli spent three months at Château de Montmort.

Montmort's reputation was made by his book on probability Essay d'analyse sur les jeux de hazard which appeared in 1708. The book, which is a collection of combinatorial problems, is a systematic study of games of chance and shows that there is important mathematics in this area.

Montmort collaborated with Nicolaus(I) Bernoulli and he was also a friend of Taylor. At a time of high feelings in the Newton-Leibniz controversy it says a lot for Montmort that he could be friends with followers of both camps.

In addition to those mentioned above, Montmort corresponded with Craig, Halley, Hermann and Poleni.

Montmort was elected to be a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1715, when he was on a trip to England. The following year he was elected to the Académie Royal des Sciences.


Article by: J J O'Connor and E F Robertson

August 2007


MacTutor History of Mathematics
[http://www-history.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/Biographies/Montmort.html]