Date: 03 Sep 2014

Bowditch, Nathaniel

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BornSalem, Massachusetts, (USA), 26 March 1773

DiedBoston, Massachusetts, USA, 16 March 1838

Nathaniel Bowditch was already well recognized for his original contributions to astronomy when he translated, corrected, and annotated the first four volumes of Pierre de Laplace’s Méchanique céleste. His translation, published and distributed at his own expense, provided a foundation for American physical astronomy in the nineteenth century.

The fourth of seven children of Habakkuk and Mary (née Ingersoll) Bowditch, Nathaniel’s formal education stopped at the age of 10 when straitened financial conditions of the family forced him to go to work in his father’s cooperage. By 1785, Bowditch had learned the rudiments of accounting and entered a 9-year contract of indentured service as a clerk with a ship’s chandler. Living and working in the chandlery, he benefited from access to the owner’s extensive library, from which he continued to educate himself, learning Latin and mathematics while working a ...