In 1802, the French navigator Nicolas Baudin met his English counterpart Matthew Flinders off the coast of South Australia, in a place now called Encounter Bay. Both men were charting the coastline.
Here is a part of Baudin’s chart, photographed at a monument to him in the small town of Robe.
You will notice two capes named Cap Fermat and Cap Monge. Further down the coast, I found capes named after Descartes and Bernoulli.
This raised some questions for me.
- Why did Baudin name these capes after mathematicians?
- Did he name any others?
- Have any of these mathematicians’ names survived on the map? Some of Baudin’s names remain; for example, Robe itself is at the southern end of Guichen Bay, and the next bay north is Lacepede Bay. But Google Maps doesn’t recognise any of these four names. (MacTutor lists two streets in Paris and a crater on the moon named after Monge, but nothing in South Australia.)
- And finally, what geographical features are named after mathematicians? (The town of Napier in New Zealand is named, not after the inventor of logarithms, but after another member of his family who was a British military commander in India. There is a major city in Australia named after a scientist.)
I will try to do more research on this while I am in Adelaide, but in the meantime I would be glad for any information!