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Nicollet, Joseph Nicolas (29 July 1786–11 September 1843), explorer, astronomer, and mathematician, was born in Cluses, a small town in the duchy of Savoy in the Alpine region of eastern France, the son of Francois Nicollet, an artisan and watch finisher, and Marie Dussaugey. He began his education in the local school where his godfather, Nicolas Berthoud, was schoolmaster. Through the Abbé Ressiat who taught him Latin he was sent to the neighboring town of Samoens to attend the Latin school there, the Manor Berouse. Since his family was impoverished after the French invasion of 1792, he tutored younger children to earn his tuition, distinguishing himself as an excellent student, particularly in mathematics. He also developed as a fine violinist. As Napoleon restricted religious schools, in 1804 Nicollet left the Manor Berouse to attend a secular institution. This was L’École Normale in Chambéry, a larger, more cosmopolitan town and the capital of the French Department of Mont Blanc. He received further training in mathematics and the natural sciences but longed to study in Paris with some of the great scholars of the age. In 1809 his school principal, George Marie Raymond, facilitated his admission to L’École Normale in Paris, where he prepared for a teaching career. Meanwhile, he became a part-time instructor at the Lycée Imperial, specializing in astronomy and mathematics. He also began to publish scholarly papers and wrote encyclopedia articles to support himself. By 1817 he had attracted the attention of the Marquis de Pierre Simon Laplace, one of the eminent astronomers of the day, who was also a professor of mathematics at the École Militaire. Laplace was impressed by Nicollet and appointed him secretary of the observatory at the institution....