Celebrities in Switzerland: Horace-Bénédict de Saussure
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de Saussure, Horace-Bénédict (1740 - 1799) France / Scientist / GE

The Saussure family, whose fame has spread in Geneva, as it has abroad, came originally from Lorraine. They sought refuge in Geneva at the time of Calvin's reform and were accepted into the bourgeoise in 1635.

Several of his sons' names passed into posterity. Nicolas (1709-1790) shone in agronomy, Nicolas-Théodore (1767-1845) in chemistry and his son Henri (1829-1905) in entomology. But the best known were Horace-Bénédict (1740-1799) and Ferdinand (1857-1913).

The name of Horace-Bénédict de Saussure is particularly associated with physics and geology and this professor of philosophy and natural sciences at the Academy (of which he was rector in 1774-1775) invented the hygrometer (an instrument for measuring the air's humidity). His glory culminated in his climbing Mont Blanc, whose summit he reached on 3 August 1787.

As for Ferdinand, his linguistic work (in particular his Course on General Linguistics) provided the basis of structuralism and contributed to the development of modern literary semiotics, as well as exerting a deep influence over theoreticians as varied as Lévi-Strauss, Merleau-Ponty and Lacan.


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