Bernoulli family

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Bernoulli family

The Bernoulli family was a Swiss patrician family, notable for having produced eight mathematically gifted academics who, among them, contributed substantially to the development of mathematics and physics during the early modern period.


Originally from Antwerp, a branch of the family relocated to Basel in 1620. While their origin in Antwerp is certain, proposed earlier connections with the Dutch family Bornouilla Bernoullie, or with the Castilian family de Bernuy Bernoille, Bernouille, are uncertain.

The first known member of the family was Leon Bernoulli d. 1561, a doctor in Antwerp, at that time part of the Spanish Netherlands. His son, Jacob, emigrated to Frankfurt am Main in 1570 to escape from the Spanish persecution of the Protestants. Jacob's grandson, a spice trader, also named Jacob, moved to Basel, Switzerland in 1620, and was granted citizenship in 1622. His son, Niklaus Bernoulli  Nicolaus, 1623–1708, Leon's great-great-grandson, married Margarethe Schönauer.

Notable academic members

Niklaus had four sons, of whom Johann and Hieronymus became the progenitors of the "greater" and the "lesser" branches of the family, respectively. The "greater" branch later became related by marriage to the prominent French academic dynasty, the Curie family, through Johann Bernoulli 1667–1748. The four sons of Niklaus were:

  • Jacob Bernoulli 1654–1705; also known as James or Jacques, mathematician after whom Bernoulli numbers are named, and author of the early probability text Ars Conjectandi
  • Nicolaus Bernoulli 1662–1716, painter and alderman of Basel
  • Johann Bernoulli 1667–1748; also known as Jean, mathematician and early adopter of infinitesimal calculus
  • Hieronymus Bernoulli 1669–1760, m. Catharina Ebneter

In addition to Jacob and Johann, the Bernoulli family of mathematicians is generally taken to include:

  • Nicolaus I Bernoulli 1687–1759, son of Nicolaus, mathematician, worked on curves, differential equations, and probability; originator of the St. Petersburg paradox
  • Nicolaus II Bernoulli 1695–1726, son of Johann
  • Daniel Bernoulli 1700–1782, son of Johann, developer of Bernoulli's principle and originator of the concept of expected utility for resolving the St. Petersburg paradox
  • Johann II Bernoulli 1710–1790; also known as Jean, son of Johann, mathematician and physicist
  • Johann III Bernoulli 1744–1807; also known as Jean, son of Johann II, astronomer, geographer and mathematician
  • Jacob II Bernoulli 1759–1789; also known as Jacques, son of Johann II, physicist and mathematician

Several more recent prominent scholars are also descended from the family, including:

  • Johann Jakob Bernoulli 1831–1913, art historian and archaeologist; noted for his Römische Ikonographie 1882 onwards on Roman Imperial portraits
  • Ludwig Bernoulli 1873–1928, German architect in Frankfurt
  • Hans Bernoulli 1876–1959, architect and designer of the Bernoullihäuser in Zurich and Grenchen SO
  • Elisabeth Bernoulli 1873–1935, suffragette and campaigner against alcoholism

The surname survives in Switzerland, with ten entries in the white pages for the city of Basel as of 2018.

Family Tree of the Basler Bernoullis

Mathematic concepts named after members of the family

Best Known For: One of the most brilliant families
Fulfilled his Potential: YES
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Bernoulli family

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