Our modern method for reduction of order is due to the French mathematician and physicist Jean le Rond d'Alembert (1717-1783) in 1766 [3, p. 381]. Figure 1 shows d'Alembert published exactly our method.

Your problem on integrating the equation \(Py+\frac{Q dy}{dx}+\frac{Rd^2y}{dx^2} \dots + \frac{M d^my}{dx^m}=X\) when one has \(m-1\) values of \(x\) [ Let \(y=V\xi\), \(V\) being undetermined, and \(\xi\) one of the values of \(y\) that satisfies the equation \(Py+\frac{Q dy}{dx}+ \dots \& c.=0\) and so this value be substituted in the equation \(Py+\frac{Q dy}{dx}+ \& c. \dots=X\). The transformed will be composed of, 1) one part \(V(P\xi+\frac{Q d\xi}{dx}\dots + \frac{M d^m\xi}{dx^m})\)… where \(X\) does not exist, so it will evidently \(=0\), because \(P\xi +\frac{Q d\xi}{dx}\dots + \frac{M d^m\xi}{dx^m}=0\)... |

**Figure 1.** D'Alembert explained what remains the modern method for reducing the order of a linear differential equation in 1766 [3, p. 381]. D'Alembert's French is followed by the authors' translation into English.

What is interesting, and what provides motivation for the rest of this paper is the title of his article: “Extrait de différentes lettres de M. d'Alembert à M. de la Grange écrites pendant les années 1764 & 1765" (“Excerpt from different letters between Mr. d'Alembert and Mr. de LaGrange written during the years 1764 & 1765”). It appears that this technique comes from a conversation with Joseph-Louis Lagrange (1736-1813). To learn more, we examine the letters shared between these mathematicians.