Charles-Marie de la Condamine: Measurement at the Equator

Barrie St. Clair McBride introduces Charles-Marie de la Condamine, a soldier-scholar, and one of the first European travellers to investigate South America in a genuinely scientific spirit.

Columbus died, unrewarded, in poverty at Valladolid in 1506; and it was years before the importance of his discoveries was even partially recognized. One of the men later to investigate South America was Charles-Marie de la Condamine, 1701-74, and although many of his discoveries and initiations have subsequently proved revolutionary, he too has gone unrewarded.

After the discoveries of Columbus, Europe was full of expectations on what the New World would bring. A celebrated Spanish physician named Nicolas Monardes wrote a book called Joy full Newes out of the Newe Founde Worlde1—a report on “the rare and singular vertues of divers Herbs, Trees, Plantes, Oyles and Stones” to be found there. But in fact, the Americas then suffered invasion by soldier explorers, the conquistadores; Hernán Cortes, Cabeza de Vaca, Hernando de Soto, Francisco Pizarro and others.

To continue reading this article you will need to purchase access to the online archive.

Buy Online Access  Buy Print & Archive Subscription

If you have already purchased access, or are a print & archive subscriber, please ensure you are logged in.

Please email if you have any problems.