Johann Heinrich Lambert

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Johann Heinrich Lambert

Johann Heinrich Lambert (August 26, 1728September 25 1777), was a mathematician, physicist and astronomer.

He was born in Mülhausen (now Mulhouse, Alsace, France). His father was a poor tailor, so Johann had to struggle to gain an education. He first worked as a clerk in an ironworks, then gained a position in a newspaper office. The editor recommended him as a tutor to a private family, which gave him access to a good library and provided enough leisure time in which to explore it. In 1759 he moved to Augsburg, then in 1763 he dwelled in Berlin. In the final decade of his life he gained the sponsorship of Frederick II of Prussia, and passed the rest of his life in reasonable comfort. He died in Berlin, Prussia (today Germany).

Lambert studied light intensity and the hyperbolic functions of trigonometry. He proved that "Pi" was an irrational number. In 1760 he published a book on light reflection in Latin, in which the word albedo was introduced. In 1761 he hypothesized that the stars near the Sun were part of a system (solar system) which travelled together through the Milky Way, and that there were many such groupings (planetary systems) throughout the galaxy. The former was later confirmed by Sir William Herschel.


  • A Short Account of the History of Mathematics, W. W. Rouse Ball, 1908.
  • Asimov's Biographical Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, Isaac Asimov, Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1972, ISBN 0385177712.

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