Flamsteed Astronomy Society

The Bureau des Longitudes, Paris

— April 3, 2006

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A friend of mine who lives in Paris, (he is native French) sometimes, on his way to work at the University on the Left Bank used to pass a building which contained the offices of the Bureau des Longitudes.


 Like a good Frenchman, he thought that this was where the problems of longitude, mapmaking and navigation had all been solved, and we had a few discussions, he and I, late into the night about whether Greenwich or Paris were the key locations for this work. He quoted the Bureau des Longitudes, the Bureau International de l’Heure and the International Earth Rotation Service of the BIPM (all in Paris) as evidence, and I used the International Meridian, the Harrison Clocks and the Nautical Almanac in defence of Greenwich. Well, the only thing to do was to look up the history of the Bureau des Longitudes and find out how this and the ROG figured in the complete story.


  The report to the National Assembly, which led to the foundation of the Bureau, makes fascinating reading. It is available to see on the Internet in French. I haven’t been able to find a proper translation into English, but I would like to show you some selections which I have translated myself. I’m sure that many of you will be much better with the language than I am, so I am going to project highlighted sections of the original while I read out the English, with apologies for the quality of the translation, for those who need it.


  --  Document on foundation of Bureau des Longitudes (pdf)


  --  Facsimile of the original memorandum (right).


  The ten original members of the Bureau make a most impressive list of names.






né à Turin en 1736,

mort à Paris en 1813.


Pierre-Simon LAPLACE


né a Beaumont-en-Auge en 1749,

mort a Paris en 1827.




né a Bourg-en-Bresse en 1732,

mort a Paris en 1807.


Jean-Baptiste-Joseph DELAMBRE


né a Amiens en 1749,

mort a Paris en 1822.


Pierre-François-André MÉCHAIN


né a Laon en 1744,

mort a Castellon de la Plana, Espagne en 1804.

Jean-Dominique CASSINI


né a Paris en 1748,

mort a Thury sous Clermont, Oise, en 1822.




né a Paris en 1729,

mort a Paris en 1811.


Jean-Charles BORDA


né a Dax en 1733,

mort a Paris en 1799.


Jean-Nicolas BUACHE


né a La Neuville-au-Pont en 1741,

mort a Paris en 1825.


Noël Simon CAROCHÉ


Fabricant d'instruments scientifiques

mort en 1813.


 Founding Members of the Bureau des Longitudes


Facsimile of the original memorandum

by Eddie Yeadon