Servois' 1814 Essay on the Principles of the Differential Calculus, with an English Translation - Wronski's Philosophy of Mathematics

Robert E. Bradley (Adelphi University) and Salvatore J. Petrilli, Jr. (Adelphi University)

Josef-Maria Hoëné-Wronski was born in Poland in 1776. Like Servois, he lived through a revolution and served in the military, first with the Polish revolutionaries of 1794 and later in the Russian army. (See [Dobrzycki 1978] or [Grattan-Guinness 1990, pp. 219-221] for more biographical information on Wronski.) Afterwards, he studied philosophy at several German universities and then moved to Marseilles in 1800, where he eventually became a French citizen. For about ten years, he worked in the mathematical sciences.


Figure 7. Sketch of Wronski by Félix Valloton (public domain).

In 1810, Wronski moved to Paris where he presented his paper “Premier principe des méthodes analytiques” to the Institut. Dobrzycki [1978] reports that the paper received a “rather sketchy review” from Lacroix and Lagrange. Grattan-Guinness [1990, p. 221] explains that Lacroix praised the generality of Wronski's results but expressed reservations about the lack of proof. Wronski published a revised version of his essay [Wronski 1811], which was intended to be his foundation for analysis based on infinitesimals. He followed this with a criticism of Lagrange's foundational program [Wronski 1812].