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Francois-Joseph Servois: Priest, Artillery Officer, and Professor of Mathematics - The Early Years

Salvatore J. Petrilli, Jr. (Adelphi University)

Note on sources: Much of the biographical information found in this paper is drawn from [Petrilli 2009, 2010]. Primary sources include [Boyer 1895a, 1895b] and [Taton 1972].

François-Joseph Servois was born on July 19, 1767, in the small village of Mont-de-Laval, located in the Départment of Doubs in the Franche-Compté region of eastern France, close to the Swiss border (too small to be shown in the map in Figure 1, but situated north of Morteau). The only son of Jacques-Ignace Servois, a merchant, and Jeanne-Marie Jolliot, Servois had one sibling, a sister about whom little is known except that he spent his retirement years with her. It would seem appropriate here to include a portrait of Servois; however, there are no known paintings or photographs of him.

Map of Doubs

Figure 1. The Départment of Doubs (public domain)

As he grew up, Servois attended different religious schools in Mont-de-Laval and Besançon, the capital of Doubs, with the intention of becoming a priest. He was ordained at Besançon near the beginning of the French Revolution. Servois' religious career, however, was destined to be a short one.