LE GENTIL DE LA GALAISSIÈRE, Guillaume-Joseph-Hyacinthe-Jean-Baptiste. Coutances (Manche) 12.9.1725 — Paris 22.10.1792. French Astronomer and Traveller, in India 1768–71. Instead of the planned career in church, but turned to astronomy. Left for India in 1760 in order to observe the transit of Venus in 1761, but missed the occasion because of delay caused by the Franco-British war. Instead, he decided to wait for the 1769 transit, first in Madagascar. Arrived at Pondichery in 1768 he collected material on Hindu astronomy, which he presented to A.I.B.L. in 1773. During his long absence, when even his letters went wrong, he had been declared dead. His wife had remarried and his estate taken by inheritors, even his place in Academy had been filled. Long lawsuit was needed, finally it was decided through the intervention of the king.
In Pondichéry Le Gentil was much helped by the Indian interpreter and scholar Maridas Poullé (Pillai). He also brought to Paris the manuscript of the Upaniṣad translation in Persian, then translated into Latin by his friend Anquetil Duperron.
Publications: Voyage dans les mers de l’Inde, fait par ordre du Roi, à l’occasion du passage de Vénus, sur le disque du Soleil, le 6 juin 1761 & le 3 du même mois 1769. 1–2. Paris 1779–81.
– “Remarques et observations sur l’Astronomie des Indiens, et sur l’ancienneté de cette Astronomie”, MAIBL 1784, 482-501; astronomical writings.
– Susan Gole: Maps of Mughal India: drawn by Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Gentil, agent for the French Government to the Court of Shuja-ud-daula at Faizabad, in 1770. 60 p. 21 colour maps. N. D. 1988.
Sources: *B. Foix, Une présence française. Le voyage savant de l’astronome Le Gentil (1725-1792). Saint-Denis 2019; *Helen Sawyer Hogg, “Le Gentil and the Transits of Venus, 1761 and 1769”, Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada 45, 1951, 37–44, 89-92, 127-134 & 173-178; Wikipedia.
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