Jacob(II) (Jacques(II)) Bernoulli

Born: 17 October 1759 in Basel, Switzerland
Died: 15 August 1789 in St Petersburg, Russia

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Jacob(II) Bernoulli was one of the sons of Johann(II) Bernoulli. Following the family tradition he took a degree in law but his interests were in mathematics and mathematical physics.

In 1782 Jacob(II) Bernoulli's uncle Daniel Bernoulli died and his chair of physics in Basel became vacant. Jacob(II) applied for the chair and presented a work on mathematical physics to support his application. The decison as to who should fill the vacant chair was not made on academic grounds but was made by drawing lots. Jacob(II) Bernoulli was unlucky and he was not offered this position he would really have liked.

He was then appointed as secretary to the Imperial Envoy to Turin and Venice. However, he was soon given the chance of another academic post when he received an offer from St Petersburg. He went to St Petersburg and began to write important works on mathematical physics which he presented to the St Petersburg Academy of Sciences. These treatises were on elasticity, hydrostatics and ballistics.

Despite the rather harsh climate, the city of St Petersburg had great attractions for Jacob(II) Bernoulli since his uncle Daniel Bernoulli had worked there with Euler. In fact Jacob(II) married a granddaughter of Euler in St Petersburg but, tragically, the city was to lead to his death.

St Petersburg is located on the delta of the Neva River, at the head of the Gulf of Finland. St Petersburg, built on 42 islands in the Neva River, is a city of waterways and bridges and because of this it is called the "Venice of the North." This has great attraction but Jacob(II) Bernoulli drowned, while still only 29 years of age, in the Neva River while he was swimming.

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

A Poster of Jacob(II) Bernoulli

Mathematicians born in the same country

Additional Material in MacTutor

  1. Bernoulli family tree

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JOC/EFR September 1998
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