Pierre-François Verhulst

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Pierre-François Verhulst

Pierre-François Verhulst [ vəɾˈhʏlst ] (born October 28, 1804 in Brussels , † February 15, 1849 ibid) was a Belgian mathematician . Today he is best known as the discoverer of the logistic equation .

Live and act

Verhulst began to study classical philology in Brussels , but then turned to studying mathematics in Ghent , where he received his doctorate in 1825. As a student he received two prizes for his work on the calculus of variations . He later published articles in the field of number theory and physics .

In 1829 Verhulst published, together with Quételet, a French translation of John Herschel's Theory of Light . During this time, Verhulst was also politically active at times. During a stay in Rome in 1830, for example, he tried to convince the Pope to give the Papal States a constitution. The Belgian Revolution of 1830 and the Dutch invasion of 1831 also prompted him to engage in political activities. In 1835 Verhulst was appointed to the Université Libre de Bruxelles , founded the previous year , and in 1840 to the Royal Military School .

His interest in probability theory had been sparked by a new lottery game . However, with the help of Adolphe Quételet , he soon began to apply them to the areas of political economy and population statistics, which were on the rise at the time thanks to the work of Thomas Robert Malthus .

His mathematical model of population growth, presented in 1838, was based on evaluations of existing statistics and supplemented the theory of exponential growth (or the geometric sequence ) with growth-inhibiting terms. He developed it further and finally published it in a paper from 1845. Since the 1970s it has again received a lot of attention as an important example of chaos theory (see logistic equation ).

His real main work is Traité des fonctions elliptiques (1841), for which he was unanimously accepted into the Royal Academy of Belgium . In 1848 he also took on the role of President of the Academy.

Works (selection)

  • Pierre-François Verhulst: Notice sur la loi que la population poursuit dans son accroissement . In: Corresp. Math. Phys. tape 10 , 1838, p. 113-121 ( google.com ).
  • Pierre-François Verhulst: Traité élémentaire des fonctions elliptiques . Hayez, Brussels 1841 ( google.com ).
  • Pierre-François Verhulst: Recherches mathématiques sur la loi d'accroissement de la population . In: Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences et Belles Lettres de Bruxelles . tape 18 . Brussels 1845, p. 1-42 ( uni-goettingen.de ).
  • Pierre-François Verhulst: Deuxième mémoire sur la loi d'accroissement de la population . In: Mémoires de l'Académie Royale des Sciences, des Lettres et des Beaux-Arts de Belgique . tape 20 , 1847, p. 1–32 ( uni-goettingen.de ).


  • Adolphe Quételet : Pierre-François Verhulst . In: Sciences Mathématiques et Physiques chez les Belges au commencement du XIX siècle. Brussels, Belgium: H. Thiry-Van Buggenhoudt, 165-183, 1866.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. a b c d e http://scienceworld.wolfram.com/biography/Verhulst.html