Pierre Duhem
Francis J. Kelly
Introduction to CAS+E Address

Dear friends, I hope I won't offend
The feelings of our group or rend
The comity, which is a sign
Of peace between us, by this rhyme.
Although he was a polymath,
Duhem would always like to laugh
At anything that was absurd
And always had a jolly word.
We find that though he worked and served
His fellow men, he much preferred
To couch a lecture with great wit
To keep his students tuned to it.
His sense of humor made him try
To caricature friends nearby.
And I must say, on his behalf
His drawings still can make us laugh.
So I think he'd not be adverse
To hearing of his life in verse.
But if you think that you must leave
1 will not cry. I will not grieve.
If you must walk and you can't stay
To hear this talk. Well then. Good Day!
I will proceed now to explain
His life to those who still remain.

Introductory Sonnet

One day the Lord did give a genius to the world,
Who, in his struggles 'gainst the Enemy,
Showed all the way, when unjust lies are hurled,
To triumph over base iniquity.
To stout Duhem, ablaze with bravery,
The quest to conquer evil did appear
A chance to free good men from slavery
To false perceptions and the truth make clear.
A steadfast scholar, he could overcome
The sneers of peers, all laden down with lies,
And with good humored wit reveal the sum
Of their deceptions, plain before their eyes.
All men thank God for scholars who lead them
From false ideas, like Pierre Duhem.

To Friends

Dear friends, I say, if you can stay
I will relay without delay
A tale, today, about the way,
As science lay before his sway;
Duhem would pray 'most every day.
And if I may, I'll gladly say
That from the cadence of this lay
I hope and pray that you will stay
Along his straight and noble way.
To Scientists and Scholars
We scientists and scholars like to tell
About the lives of all we value well.
Our work depends on knowledge of the past.
We make each little bridge after the last.
When scientists and scholars jointly meet,
Our heroes' lists would be found incomplete,
If we forget the debt and requiem.
To pay and pray for great Pierre Duhem.

To Children

Dear children, stay. Today you'll want to hear
A tale I'll say of one we all should cheer.
His soul deserved to rate 'mongst noble men,
Uneasy genius— great Pierre Duhem.
His family, his Church, his God and creed
Were manly keys that freed him to succeed:
He made prolific writings while alive;
And his terrific works today survive.
He trained in youth to be a physicist
But could, in truth, not really long resist
His call to study science history
To clear away the mist of mystery.
Like warm sunshine that streams at bright noonday
His work, sublime, with truth has cleared away
The cloudy claim some made that in the Church
All did disdain the simple things of earth.
Instead, the Christian medieval world,
Alive with Faith, had need to have unfurled
The truths the ancient Greeks so long before
Had come to teach in Athens' days of yore.
Duhem would scan the secret source
Of science and described its course.
This bothered anti-Catholic men,
Who couldn't stand to hear it then.

Duhem's Contribution

Piously the science tribe'll
Preach against the Holy Bible;
But Duhem dicern'd that science
Sprang from priests who placed reliance
On the written revelation
From our God, who at Creation
Laws to govern for all time.
In Cabrespine, beneath the eagle's
Nest, he learned the medieval
Sources of the modem science
To which nature owes compliance.
Physics was Pierre's vocation;
History made his reputation:
Philosoph,, academician,
Artist, savant and technician.
He denounced French scientism,
Undermined its catechism.
Ancient manuscripts he'd scan,
Reading works by Buridan,
Him, the priest, whose inspiration
Of momentum conservation
Leapt from deepest contemplation
Of the moment of Creation.
Pierre compiled the history
Of the world's cosmology.
His work comprising ten volumes.
By truth and logic clearly dooms
The thought that medieval prayer
Was bad for science to the lair
Of Hell, where false ideas fall
And ne'er return to plague us all.
Duhem declar'd Oresme's law
Of falling objects had no flaw;
Oresme learned this long ago—
So long before Galileo.
Duhem saw the concept of mass
Arise from words of Saint Thomas,
Who taught that Aristotle's thought
Was not correct in every jot.
Today I tell this story, grand,
In words you well can understand—
This tale about a good, good man,
You can pour out before your clan.
(A clan means home and family—
Your dad and mom, especially-
The people who for love of you
All help you do what you should do.)
I learned to like Duhem, so bright,
From Jaki's book; amen, that's right.
His book is long and rigorous to read;
But when you're strong and bigger you'll succeed.
In simple terms I'll try to put
The thoughts I learned in that fine book.
I'll add some of my own, you see,
To help you love this history.
As I essay to tell this story,
A lot I'll say of Duhem's glory.
My thoughts may stray; but please don't worn
Because today, we need not hurry.
Sometimes I will elaborate
On things until you meditate.
We are not in a rush or late.
You should begin to cogitate.

Pierre's Birth

As one of great and noble worth,
We know the date of Pierre's birth.
In June of eighteen sixty one,
In Paris, late, did Pierre come
The ninth, it's sworn, on Sunday night,
Pierre was born to great delight.
His dad, Pierre, was filled with joy
To hold his merry baby boy.
It was so late that dad did make,
By quirk of fate, a small mistake.
For he did state the wrong birth date
To magistrate and small and great.
Pierre hem late on ninth of June.
This proper date was one day soon.
The date of June the tenth instead
Was put into the book and read.
The error was, no doubt, put straight,
But not without a lengthy wait.
The date, reset to ninth of June,
Was then correct. Let us resume.

The Father's Story

I'm sure his dad, Pierre, that day
Was very glad he'd left Roubaix
And wed his wife, Marie Fabre,
Who was through life, with him to stay.
In youth Pierre, the dad, enrolled
In school to hear of days of old.
But when his father passed away,
He had to work, the bills to pay.
The dad became a cloth salesman.
This eldest in the Duhem clan
Of eight young ones was forced to quit
The college known as Jesuit
At Bruges, when his dear dad died.
His love for learning then denied.
But he would bring a Latin book,
Along with him to take a look
At tales, some true, from long ago
As he would, to the country, go.
This father of our young hero
Had had it rough here down below.
In a few years his family grew.
Twin girls, such dears, were added, too.
These two, Marie and Antoinette
Loved royalty without regret.

The Mother's Story

Their ancestors, historically,
On their maternal family tree,
Had shown a rare nobility,
And lots of raw ability.
A secretary, formerly,
Had served his royal majesty,
Louis Fourteenth, the famous one,
Who has been likened to the sun.
That king, was he, of France, who said,
"The State, that's me" with shake of head
And "After me," his grandson said,
"The deluge." He would die in bed.
Louis Fifteenth was far too free
With girls and needless luxury.
A weak regent, he did not keep
The crowds content, but fell asleep.
And in his time I'd have to say,
There was decline; and France would pay
Louisiana, India,
Were snatched from France with Canada
It was Louis Sixteenth, instead,
The king, you see, who lost his head.
Mama Fabre's forbears, in short,
Were often present at the court.
But when the revolution screamed,
Her forbears were not guillotined.
They were by Bonaparte employed
And, still, some prominence enjoyed.
For when the Pope was called to crown
The Emperor before the town,
The Fabre's went to celebrate
This grand event among the great.
To stimulate their pious hope,
They were donated by the pope
The blessing of a rosary
And cutting of the holy tree
Upon which Jesus met his death,
In pain, to free us from the depth
Of fiery hell, where devils, bound
To suffer, fell there underground.
But Christ, the heavy judgment, paid
For sins that Eve and Adam made.
In France the kindred of Pierre
Had always been a factor there.
The First Visit to Cabrespine
When small Duhem was only five,
They took a train and then a drive
Out to a town called Cabrespine,
Which lies upon a valley, green.
This was the Fabre's ancient home;
And all the family were known
To be the town's nobility
From what was down in history.
Throughout this time, the family,
Fabre, were fine society.
They met with Uncle Timothee,
A learned pundit of his day—
So great that he was, if you please,
Professor of Humanities.
He taught at Angers and retired;
Pierre, his fan, was so inspired
To follow in the great man's path
Of honor, dignity, and class.
He learned his Latin each school night.
With all his mind and all his might.
He followed in the path, so straight,
Of uncle Tim, beloved and great.
By the big word "humanities"
We mean the subjects such as these;
Literature and histories
And language are humanities.
Including too some "osophies.."
And art and music if you please.
Pierre and his twin sisters, too,
Were growing up as you would do.
The sisters liked to pull his hair
From either side-that naughty pair!
He did not fuss or make complaint,
Although he was not then a saint.
His mother said he was too good.
They played and teased him like you would.

Summer Vacations

At summer's height when Paris stores
Like drums do tightly bar their doors,
And merchant men vacations, take,
Duhems were then to take a break.
When heat was blazing, they would stay
Out in a place called Ville d'Avray,
Which nestled near a bank beside
The road from Paris to Versailles.
For it was then a country place
Where little men could run and chase
The butterflies that sucked the juice
From daisies' eyes, as it did ooze.
The Franco-Prussian War
Great war came near for the first time,
When small Pierre was only nine.
The Prussian Army entered France
And caused alarm that, soon, perchance,
Compelled the troopers to retreat
To Paris to prevent defeat.
These gallant soldiers, one sad day,
Marched down the road through Ville d'Avray.
Back to their home the Duhems sped.
From Paris soon the children fled.
Mama, Marie and Antoinette
And small Pierre rushed out to get
To Uncle Gaston's domicile,
Southwest of Chartres by thirty mile.
There Uncle Gaston practiced law.
For aid they hastened, one and all.
And fast, without pause, they had run
From Paris out to Chateaudun.
This was a dubious choice because
The German troops, without a pause,
Then moved their guns beside the Loir.
At Chateaudun they would wage war,
They dragged their cannons to the place,
Where Duhems ran their frantic race.
Pierre helped form the barricade
Preparing for the cannonade.
The Germans launched their cannonballs
To blast down houses, trees and walls.
For sanctuary, then, did all
Duhems repair to hospital.
While on this fearful ground, a round
Grazed Pierre's ear and with a sound
Embedded in the wall quite near,
Where he dug out this souvenir.
The basement of the hospital
Did not prove safe for them at all.
Mama, Marie and Antoinette
And he would flee this ripe target.
Afraid of flames, they had to flee.
Out to the lanes where they could see
That like a hive of hornets mad
Or bees, alive, the bullets had
Diseased the lane and street with death.
They ran away 'ntil out of breath.
They fled to good old Gaston's home
To get some food and then were gone.
Out of the town, they fled from harm
And stayed 'til dawn at someone's farm.
They did not run an hour too soon,
For Chateaudun would meet its doom.
Despite defenders that were brave,
Soon many men were in their grave.
Mama thought they had better go
To family in old Bordeaux.
By railroad train and hay wagon,
The Duhems came to stay with kin.

War Events

The cannons fired. The soldiers died.
The statesmen tired. The people cried.
The Emperor's whole grand army
Was caught before it could get free.
Baked elephants were fed the rich,
While dead infants lay in a ditch.
The poor ate cat. The people prayed.
And God, to that, an answer made.
Our Lady came to give them hope.
But at Pontmain she never spoke.
When to the small, she there appeared.
The Prussians stalled; and then they veered
The trees were chopped. A truce was signed
A siege was stopped. Some men resigned.
In every place there was some pain.
France lost Alsace and lost Lorraine.
A grim defeat now faced all France.
While leaders meet as in a trance.
To Paris, then, the Duhem clan
Returned again to join their man.
Papa, alone, had stayed behind
To guard their home 'til truce was signed.

The Commune of Paris

Revolt was born now, dark and dour.
The commune formed and then took power
The poorer people in Paris
Sought to unseat the upper class.
They didn't like the Emperor
And wanted rights and more and more.
Although they had much cause for grief,
These people, sad, found no relief.
While they held Paris in their thrall,
The communards arrested all
The parish priests that they could find,
To kill like geese in that bad time.
They hated, above all, the church,
Which they should love for all their worth.
They even grabbed the Archbishop
And had him stabbed before they stopped.
An army remnant would return
To stop the rebels and be firm.
They did defeat the communists
And took the streets back from their fists.
Thus all Duhems were there to see
This story end in tragedy.
Some great insights of young Pierre
Were formed in light of this affair.

The Death of Jean and Antoinette

When Pierre's age was only ten,
He read the page of loss again
His pain was great for sweet Mane.
October eighteen seventy
And one, Duhem's small family
Increased just temporarily.
For then mama, Marie, gave birth
To Jean, for a brief stay on earth.
The family gladly welcomed Jean,
When mama had her second son.
This gift to them from God above
Helped teach Duhem of Mary's love.
But Paris had hysteria
Because a bad diphtheria
Was killing many who were weak
Especially infants, mild and meek.
Then Antoinette and Jean both died!
The Duhems wept and sadly cried.
The other two were sent away
So to elude the plague and stay
In safety with Grandma Fabre,
Away from Paris 'til the time
When dreadful danger would decline.
The sorrow that they felt that day
Would teach them what the Christians say
Of Mary's and the Father's loss
When Jesus died upon the cross.
For death is less a mystery
When you are blessed with tragedy,
And see how painful agony
Affects one in your family.
The date of death of Antoinette
For such a great long time was set
On Holy Catherine's feast day eve,—
A special day for them to grieve...
This date they then were to remember
Was on the twenty fourth, November.

Saint Catherine's Story

And do you wist Saint Catherine,
The scientist who would not sin
By offering pagan sacrifice?
She told them "Nay!" and paid the price.
Cruel leaders tried to make her sin
And taught, with pride, she should give in.
In A. D. of three hundred ten
She showed the love of Christ to men
And as they plotted she was bold
And told them what they needed told
Her proud antagonists were changed
And all their bragging disarranged
Some were enticed her Faith to hear
And followed Christ despite their fear.
This meant their life was sacrificed
For it meant death to be for Christ.
In Alexandria she died;
The Christ, God-Man, she'd not denied.
Her head was severed in the East.
Her fame has never, never ceased.
This exemplary scientist
Was entered there into the list
Of saints we all should imitate,
On whom to call in our sad state.

Duhems in Mourning

Their big tears ran on the sad day
When death took Antoinette away;
But with their hope, so strong and true,
The Duhems coped and prayed, "Adieu."
So small Marie and brave Pierre
Were led to see the reason there.
Though sad that Antoinette was gone,
Their faith began to grow more strong.
As their reward for strong patience,
We are assured that ever since
The death of merry Antoinette
They always were St.Cathy's pet.
It's something true that you will find
That when they grew, they both were kind.
Marie became a holy nun.
Pierre, acclaim in science, won.
Pierre was known for bravery
And never one for knavery.
He was inspired to gain his place
And never tired or lost his grace.

Early Education

Now to relate about his school—
Twas run by ladies named Amoul.
He learned to love mathematics there.
And peace and piety and prayer.
His catechism at St. Roch
Each Monday morning by the clock
Was strengthened, we can well assume,
By Maupertuis and Corneille's tombs.
And at St. Roch a plaque was placed
To tell how death was bravely faced
By four good fathers from St. Roch
When revolution ran amok.
Duhem was warned to stay from school
In time of war and commune, cruel.
 He had to spare some time from class
To flee the war and commune's wrath.
Now it's a funny thing to hear
That in French schools the classes were
All numbered in the backwards way.
The youngest was eleventh grade.

Life at Stanislas

He spent six years in Arnoul's class
And went to College Stanislas
Preparing for the grandes ecoles
With Marianists that save men's souls.
At Stanislas Abbe Legarde
Expected classes to work hard.
Duhem went there in the fifth grade;
And for ten years, in school, he stayed.
His locker door and papers, too
Were marked with four and seven two. (472).
Then every boy a number had,
Identifying every lad.
When he began this work to do,
It was eighteen seventy two.
His group was known by color, green,
But red's and yellow's too were keen.
When Paris would be clothed in white,
The boys with glee would snowball fight.
The color groups would all compete
Like army troops along the street.
The boys would play athletic games
To gain the strength for life and fame.
The reds and greens and yellows, true,
Had lots of fun—but worked hard too.
At Stanislas the friends he made,
In every class were those who stayed.
When he, into his grave, was laid,
They rallied to his daughter's aid.
Ten years he stayed beyond the first
And worked to slake his knowledge thirst.
Thus he advanced his mind so clear
To pass exams without a fear.
Since Moutier at Stanislas
Did much prefer a noisy class,
It did occur— the naughty boys—
They would disturb him with no noise!
But Moutier did teach Pierre
To think in ways without compare.
He'd contemplate and cogitate
And write in ways so accurate.


In summer when the Paris stores
Slow down and then they close their doors,
And families vacations take,
Pierre was free to take a break.
On summer hikes in Brittany
Whose map reads like a litany
Of Saints and Angels from on high,
He tramped beneath a bright blue sky.
A favorite town was St. Gildas,
On stone upon the rock cleft coast.
In ancient towers of the church
The seagulls, crows, and egrets perch.
By sailboat he went out to sea
Around the western isles, where he
Could ride the windy waves along,
Where wave and wind are wild and strong.
With friends like Joe Recamier
He liked to go afloat to play
To sail so fast at sea all day;
At Sunday Mass, they knelt to pray.
Each day ashore Pierre would see
Strange samples for his gallery.
His artist's heart and eye could spy
The touch of God in sea and sky.
The Breton natives, simple, poor,
Would there relate their ancient lore.
Back to the Gaullish times they'd wend.
In Caesar's halls their nights they'd spend.
While swimming in the bounding main,
Strong stomach cramps attacked with pain;
And rheumatism made him sore
Throughout his life. There was no cure.
(Perhaps he drank in from the sea
Helicobacter Pylori.)

Return to Stanislas

When he returned to Stanislas,
He could not learn in every class;
Nor could he take the next exam
To make him a Nomalien.
So, for an extra year, he taught
At Stanislas and grew in thought.
So when at last he took the test,
Of all his class, he was the best!

Normale Life

He entered the Ecole Normale
On scholarship and studied all
They had to teach on science, pure;
And lived above the great, Pasteur.
He got to know Louis Pasteur,
The scientist, who learned to cure
Dread rabies, which, from mad dog bites,
Would cause slow death within fortnights.
It was a triumph rare indeed.
That great Pasteur could thus succeed
To conquer hydrophobia
By study of microbia.
One day, with Joe Recamier,
Louis Pasteur was heard to say
Pierre should lab director be
In Bacterio-Chemistry.
Duhem considered this request
For some few days— but thought it best
This offer to resist, decline,
And stay with physics from that time.
Pasteur was good and so devout
That while he would go out about,
He'd bring with him a rosary
To pray his prayers devotedly.

Doctoral Thesis I

Duhem was soon to make a foe;
A chemist, who, named Berthelot,
Did dominate the Paris scene.
He'd been the first to make benzene.
This scientist extraordinaire
For politics did have a flair.
He would succeed in rising far
Becoming Foreign Minister.
After his work to synthesize
Organics from the earth and skies,
Old Berthelot decided he
Would write on thermo chemistry.
But Berthelot did something dumb.
He said that work's a maximum
And claimed this universal law
Should govern every case he saw.
But Pierre really was the man,
Who entropy did understand,
And saw that Berthelot's whole law
Was hardly worth the public's awe.
And as a free young scientist
He wrote his thesis to insist
That Berthelot's whole law was wrong
And proved it so by methods strong!
When Berthelot found out about
This mental blow, he was put out
And schemed to have the board reject
The thesis—even though correct.
So Pierre worked to overcome
The duty shirked by everyone
Who feared the wrath of Berthelot,
Who clawed and grasped for power so.
But Pierre was both smart and brave
And never was to be dismayed.
In spite of the committee's sting,
He sent his work for publishing.
And Berthelot then had the nerve
To say Duhem would never serve
In Paris, where the best did teach,
Because he dared to make this breach.
And young Pierre proved to be best
When he did fairly take the test
To teach a course in French lycees,
Ecoles and universities.
And two years later young Pierre
Another thesis did prepare
In Mathematics; and he passed
The tests and sat "Doctor" at last.

Life At Lille

Duhem could write with flair and style
And so delight his readers while
He made his science straight advance
With steps relying not on chance.
So when he graduated, then,
The scientists that knew Duhem
All saw his force and felt his zeal,
And gave a course to teach at Lille.
Duhem accepted, then, the post
At Lille expecting that, at most,
He would teach there for a few years
And would in Paris reappear.
At Lille they were so glad to get
A researcher so excellent
Demartres and Pain-Levi were,
At that time, fans of young Pierre.

His Father's Death

Now this was when, his father, true,
Was sick and then much weaker grew.
Duhem left Lille to be with him
As his last illness did begin
And life's spark soon grew weak within.
From Stanislas, Recamier
Was now a doctor, who did stay
The vigil through the dad's last day,
Til death removed his soul away.
This sadness over, then a pause;
But soon his mother came because
She was to feel that her dear son,
Alone at Lille, would need his mom.
And so the Duhem family,
Pierre and mom and sweet Marie,
Soon set up shop at home in Lille,
While Pierre worked with extra zeal.
Marie-Adele Chayet (Maddy)
His mother and his sister, too,
Would understand just what to do
To get him near a lovely thing
Who would soon wear his wedding ring
They did abet a party, small,
Where two Chayettes, there in the hall
Would be in place accord' to plan.
With charm and grace to meet their man
It was Marie-Adele Chayet,
The young lady, who soon would get
The love through life of brave Pierre
And be his wife, his life to share.
It was in May of eighteen ninety;
Pierre fell madly for his Maddy.
That summer found him with her clan
In Pouliguen near Morbihan.
The summer's o'er, they were engaged
And, in October, vows exchanged.
They honeymooned in old Belgium,
Where, from his school, his dad had corns
They toured the squares and old museum
And viewed the rare, artistic scenes
That Dutch and Flemish masters made,
And Fromentin's fine book surveyed.

The Seminarian

They met a seminarian,
Who shared with them his holy plan.
Because he did, tuition, lack,
He could not, to his school, go back.
Adele, on hearing this sad tale,
Restrained a tear, but did not fail
To ask Duhem to give away
Her wedding funds to help his way.
Duhem reminded his sweet wife
That works of kindness in this life
Would bring them blessings and in time
Ensure success, their goal, divine.
So they, the money, did donate
To aid, with funds, the young prelate.
Then he would pray that God above
Would bless their days with deep'ning love.

The Baby

The two would soon be glad to learn
That God responded in His turn.
A baby then was born to them.
The baby was Helene Duhem.
On next September twenty nine,
They saw Helene for their first time.
She wore a fancy little ring.
She could enchant a prince or king.
Her mom, Adele, and dad, Pierre
Did love it well that she was there.

The Death of Adele

But mom, Adele, was soon to die
And said farewell the next July.
Adele succumbed to heart disease
And died while wanting most to please
Her husband and her Lord on high.
She served both men until she died.
Duhem baptized him on the day
Their newborn, Joseph, passed away;
And next, Adele was called to leave,
While sad Pierre was left to grieve.
Adele had asked her husband to
Remarry as so many do,
And have his parent raise Helene,
As she departed from the scene.
But never can Duhem forget
His Maddy; and, without regret,
His life, alone, without a bride,
He spent then on until he died.
His mother was to live with him
And help to raise his little kin.
And he, to mom, was always kind.
A better son, no one could find.

Fight at Lille

He taught at Lille for all that year
And progressed well in his career.
But as a scholar near the best,
He had some problems with the rest.
A workman that should have equipped
His lab for tests neglected it.
Our Pierre then with vehemence,
Reproved the man for this offense.
The science chairman came to take
A part in this affair and shake
His fist at him who did complain
Of the wit-dimmed scatterbrain.
It was like, then, a thunderstorm
Around Duhem, who felt the scorn,
Of Demartres, who made a fuss
With this Uneasy Genius.
The source of strife was then in place
And every side could state its case.
The Dean Demartres came to feel
That he should part Duhem from Lille.
Next in this atmosphere, so tense,
A bureaucrat, for this offense,
Decides that he'll transfer Duhem
From little Lille to smaller Rennes.
So it was in some weeks he left
And went to Rennes without regret.
There he could teach with patient men,
Who had beseeched him to join them.

Transfer to Rennes

Abbe Pantonnier from Rennes
Was counted one of Pierre's friends.
At Stanislas they both had been;
And father was friend to Morin.
Morin, professor at the school
In Rennes, thought that Duhem was cool,
Admired his wit in natural laws,
And well promoted Pierre's cause.
He moved with all his family,
Helene, mama and sweet Marie.
They well enjoyed the Breton days
He entertained with every page.
To mama he'd relate his plans
Which Helene, too, would understand.
Three times each day mama prepared
The food and for her grandchild cared,
And educated, with delight,
By teaching her to read and write.
Helene each mom her lesson said
And sat near where her father read;
But grandmama saw that Helene
Did not disturb his thoughts, serene.
Though small Helene would like to play
Her grand mama had this to say,
"You should not interrupt his ken
When searching for a theorem."
This made Helene a little sad;
But sacrifice soon made her glad.
She did not romp or cause much noise
And was not fretful with her toys.
By being quiet, good and kind,
She learned to share her father's mind,
And was not sent away from him
But saw him work through thick and thin.
'Most every day some poor appeared
At Pierre's door because they heard
That he would surely ease their pain
And help with shelter 'gainst the rain.
Each week or so, one poor man climbed
Up Pierre's steps and, as a blind
Man, begged for alms as help for him
And for his girl, who guided him.
But once Duhem, encount'ring him
Upon a road without his kin,
Was greeted by his voice so free
He knew at once—the man could see!
This revelation struck him dumb!
Duhem resolved when next he'd come-
The lying beggar— to his door
He'd try to halt this behavior.
So he reproved the beggar when
His girl and he appeared again;
But Pierre's heart could not refrain
From giving alms to them again!

Duhem and the Veteran

In Cabrespine a veteran
From olden time came to Duhem
To ask his aid and to report
He was not paid his main support.
It seemed the high bureaucracy
Did act with dire stupidity
And snatched away the pension pay
For service brave, that they should pay.
Duhem was sought to intercede,
Because they thought he knew the breed
Of persons who were strong "up there"
As these bold suitors did declare.
So Pierre thought, "What should I do?
When they have brought my message to
The Ministry of War, it may
Be months before he gets his pay.
I know! I'll send to Painleve,
Who was my friend in Rennes one day.
He's prominent in politics
By being up to his old tricks.
The letter done and sent away—
In just two weeks, they sent the pay.
The soldier danced and bragged to all
About this answer to his call.
For many months this was the theme
Of village talk in Cabrespine.
They marveled and made happy fuss
About Duhem, their genius.

Duhem and the Gebaude Family

One day Pierre and small Helene
Went hiking there near Cabrespine.
In open fields it came to pass,
They met a fam'ly at Rias.
The parents tried 'though very poor
With children, five, to make support.
The eldest one, a shepherdess,
Was almost done-in great distress.
As they considered 'bout her doom,
Consumption did her bones consume;
They feared that sovereign death would corn'
To this impoverished little one.
Duhem had suffered much in life
And knew the cut of sorrow's knife.
He took her hand and had her come
To a fine sanitarium.
The girl, Marie Louise Gebaude,
With piety would make him proud.
When she was well, she did become,
The truth to tell, a holy nun.
Her youngest brother, who was least,
Became none other than a priest
And told this story far and wide
Throughout the worthy country side.
Duhem's pity provided for
Their family, when they were poor.
Their hearts would lift with gratitude
For Pierre's gift of health and food.
So from the Diocese of Aude,
Marie and Marcellin Gebaude
Would pray until they came to die
For Pierre's soul to live on high.

Discovery of Medieval

Duhem politely did agree
With some to write the history
Of physics topics applied to
All static objects for Revue
Des Questions Scientifiques, which,
In Brussels, then, had been published.
The first installments, on the Greeks,
Were promptly all sent in some weeks
But then there was a great delay
As Pierre found much more to say.
He found Jordan us de Nemore
Had written much upon the score
Of work that is termed virtual
Because it does prevent a fall
Of objects which in structures high
Upon such measures do rely.
For if you wish to build a church,
Or fortress to repel the Turks,
Or make the tower for a bell,
You need to know your statics well.
Duhem was shocked that de Nemore
Had learned so much of physics lore;
But then he found that so much more
Was done by priests, unknown before.
Oresme and Jean Buridan
Could understand sweet nature's plan:
And laws of motion came to know-
Quite long before Galileo.
This came quiet unexpectedly
To Pierre who, respectfully,
Investigated all these leads
And saw fruition of these seeds.
He learned more medieval facts
From manuscripts found in the stacks
Of libraries where tomes were stored;
And for this gift, he thanked the Lord.
He spread the news that history
Had been abused; and he would free
The mind of Western man from doubt
And teach what life is all about.
For many scientists in France
Had heard that at the Renaissance
The eyes and minds of men did ope'.
To follow science—not the Pope.
But he told how, with certitude,
That it undoubtedly was rude
To pass by true-blue scientists
Whose contributions did persist
Right up until our current time.
Forgetfulness is like a crime.
He could see that Copernicus
And Galileo did not fuss
To tell that they had used, again,
The teaching of these older men.
Renee Descartes and Newton, too,
Had debts, in part, to good and true
Old medieval physicists,
Who made the path into the lists
Of the experimental ways
That now persist in modem days.

His Greatest Work

When men debate about the date
Which they should state as the birth date
Of science in its modem state,
Then learned men all thank Duhem
For teaching them of the time when
In twelve seventy and seven (1277)
A group of men that Etienne,
Archbishop, then (Parisian)
Called to his den and gave to them
The job to ken the truth and then
To write with pen and tell all men
The answer to a big problem.
They then condemned the recent trend
Not to contend
That God could send an angel, friend,
To move the earth straight back and forth
Or to the north
Returning, then, it back again.
They, with Archbishop Tempter,
Did show their starch and dared to say
That some of Aristotle's laws
Were wrong—and pointed out the flaws.
This caused the university
Of scholars to think differently
And try to see a way around
This falsity that they had found.
And in the search good monks and priests
Would try to learn if they, at least,
Could say how all the planets go
And how things fall, like rain or snow.
Duhem was the first one to ken
The work of Nich'las Oresme
And point out how this good, devout,
Religious man had talked about
The way that falling bodies go
Quite long before Galileo;
And also how he did display
The distance that they fall away.
He thought to graph the distance gone
By means of small rectangles on
A paper or a big blackboard
And thus prefigur'd Descartes word.

Islamic Scientists: Avicenna

Avicenna, born near Bukara,
Was famous through North Africa.
He wrote a book on medicine
Derived from that of old Galen.
A thousand years have come to be
Since his first light in nine eighty(980)
He hoped to gain to houri heaven
In ten hundred thirty seven.
Because he was so very bright
He was the proper one to write
The best encyclopedia
Of science in Arabia
Islamic Scientists: Averroes
Eleven twenty six—the date
When Averroes was born.
In year eleven ninety eight,
His passed beyond life's bourne.
Since Averroes wrote upon
The work that Aristotle'd done,
His name, became well known before,
To all as his "Commentator."
He came from old Cordova, Spain.
Where rain stays mainly the plain.
When Spain's last Moslem ruler fled,
He went to Africa instead.
Averroes would separate
The truths of reason and of faith.
The Imams then did not agree
And tried him for this heresy.

Greek Scientists

I think it proper to insist
And state that the first atomist
Of all was Greek Leucippus
Who hailed from Thales' Miletus.

Medieval Scientists

The medieval atomists
That we can see on Duhem's lists
Did follow great Epicurus,
Who learned from Greek Leucippus
Nicholas Bonet was one;
And so was Gerald of Odon;
An atomist, I must report,
Was Nicholas of Autrecourt.
And Nicholas Bonet was a
Good bishop, who, in old Malta,
Did pass in thirteen forty three (1343)
From his Franciscan chancery.
He was advanced beyond his time.
In fact he saw that many-time
Was the best method to project
The movement of each real object.
He saw there is no absolute
Immobile body; and he knew't.
And Gerald of Odon, we know,
Was one who did, in stature, grow.
From thirteen twenty nine until
One three four two( 1329-1342), he saw his will
Obeyed by all the friars there were,
Since he was General Minister.
And Nick from Autrecourt did guess
That light did, with great speed, progress;
But not so fast, as others taught,
As infinite, as angel's thought..
These Atomists' opponents rose.
Franciscan Roger Bacon (1213-1292) chose
To say geometry's tenets
As Euclid shows (no one forgets!)
Preclude that, in a square, the size
Of side and diagonal, arise
From atom lengths of like extent;
And this is not irrelevant.
As Albert Magnus we know him,
Who taught St. Thomas of Acquin.
Well born in 'leven ninety three,
He died in twelve eighty, A. D.
He was a saint, a holy one,
And bishop of fair Ratisbon.
St. Thomas (1225-1274) was first seen alive
At Acquin in twelve twenty five.
He was at last to move no more
After twelve hundred sev'nty four.
The Common Doctor, St. Thomas,
Would listen mutely in his class;
But when somebody poked rude fun,
St. Albert answered for this one.
The priests that taught in middle time
Thought Aristotle's words were fine;
But they did not then hesitate
To seek the truth at any rate.
Of them the best was Aquinas,
Whom we address as St. Thomas.
Much Tom did read. He was adept.
He did conceive the mass concept.
For Aristotle always taught
That, like a bottle filled with pop,
The world is filled—a plenum there-
And there's no vacuum anywhere.
But Plato taught that there is space,
To let things dart about in place;
But Aristotle said, at last,
Things, in a void, would move too fast.
He taught that motion in a void
Would go so fast time'd be destroyed.
The speed would grow to infinite,
If stuff d not slow it down a bit.
So Aristotle said, you see,
"A void, I've taught, could never be.
We always need some stuff to make
All things lose speed -just like a brake."
St. Thomas, though, did not believe
That this was so, and did conceive
Things could impede such rapid speed
By something in themselves, indeed.
St. Thomas knew he had the clue
That in a void some mass would do
The job of slowing up a thing,
That would not go like bright lightning.
Duhem wrote down that St. Thomas
Was the first one to think of mass
And, by this breakthrough, did fore run
Great Galileo and Newton
As Thomas' writings brought them fame,
Dominicans thought it a shame
That he should ever be interred
Far from the place deGuzman served.
And so they brought his body there,
To old Toulouse, to inspire prayer.
Friar John Duns Scotus burst alive
In the year twelve sixty five (1265).
He made some studies that were great
And died in thirteen hundred eight (1308).
A true example of the spark
By which Saint Francis left his mark,
Duns Scotus spoke about the will
That moves all minds and moves us still..
He was so subtle with each word
And taught at Paris and Oxford.
The Lord received him as His own
Soon after he went to Cologne.
Jean Buridan, I have to state,
Was born in thirteen twenty eight.
He made discoveries that were great
And died in thirteen fifty eight.
From deep mental contemplation
On the moment of creation
He received the inspiration
Of the law of conservation.

The Catholic Association

Duhem excelled in all his work;
And his fine reputation grew.
He was enlisted by Doufourq
In an association, new.
They formed a group at old Bordeaux
For students who were Catholic.
The chaplain. Abbe Bergereaux,
Said masses from the rubric.
Headquarters at Rue Canihac
Were near the university,
Permitting students to get back
For classes after talk or tea.
The founders were quite brilliant men,
Whose mem'ry stands 'gainst all assault.
Along with Filche there were Duhem,
Doufourq, and good Paul Courteault.
It was an early form, allowed,
Of Newman Clubs we know today.
It helped to bring the college crowd
To face their faith and pause to pray.
Out tramping on a pilgrimage,
Or after praying at a mass,
Duhem gave each the privilege
And made discourse with every class.
His lectures to the girls and boys
In his association talks
Would teach how science brings true joy;
And Faith leads up to heaven's walks.
The Death of Duhem during WWI
The war was raging far and wide.
Blood soiled the fair French countryside,
Where millions suffer'd, millions died.
The rack of war was set upon
The world; and friends, who lost a son
In battle at the Marne or Somme,
All knew from war what pain had come.
His patriotic heart was stirr'd
With battle news. Each bitter word
Enflamed his sorrows as he read
The lists of young to be interr'd
Among the dead..

Last Days

In August of nineteen sixteen (1916),
Duhem was home in Cabrespine
To rest and sketch the valley scene
On mountain walks with his Helene.
Duhem had finished working on
The text that he'd before begun
On medieval physics, which
He wrought from sources, very rich.
The printer had returned the fifth
Large volume's proofs to proofread with
The style and speed, so much admired
By those who knew Duhem, inspired.
He, on a walk near Cabrespine,
Grew white as chalk and had to lean
Upon his staff to slowly come
Back home again, near overcome.
That night he struggled with the pain
That crushed his chest and tried to feign
Indifference to the mounting strain
That sapped his strength, as life would wane.
Helene was shocked to hear him groan
When she awoke. Her mind was thrown
Into a fret for she'd not known
That he was suffering all alone.
She sent away for help at once
The doctor came and did announce
Angina now had come to him.
Duhem's last contest did begin.
The first attack! September two
Had been severe; but he tried to
Return to work, and health renew,
While "think on death" was what he knew.
His strength seemed slowly to improve.
He had to rest and hardly move.
Compared to his accustomed gait,
He could but slowly ambulate.
The last blow, on the fourteenth, came.
He was at home with his Helene.
They were discussing then the war-
He was to utter nothing more.
A heart attack did then suspend
The earthly track of this true friend
Of scientists and men of God.
He came back rich from lands untrod.
He mined the records of the time
For wealth no others thought to mine;
And from researches in the past
Brought forth results, profound and vast.

My Visit to Cabrespine

No doubt, dear children, you should know
About my pilgrimage to go
To view the scene of Pierre's home
At Cabrespine near Carcassone.
When I was there in Cabrespine
To visit his fair valley, green,
I met a gent who knew Pierre
And also went to meet the mayor.
My car did cruise to Cabrespine
From old Toulouse, and I was keen
To find that special place, so fair,
Though not expecting signs to blare!
The billboards shouted "Cabrespine"
And led me out to a canteen,
Where viewers haunt a tourist rest—
A restaurant called "Eagle's Nest."
I, from this aerie, did espy
The hamlet where he lived and died.
Far down the slope, steep and inclined.
This raised my hope and eased my mind.
I drove down slow to his hamlet,
And did not know what I might get.
1 passed through town then once or twice
And looked around to get advice.
And when I, to the left hand, turned
And went on through, I quickly learned
The road was shrinking on my car
To squeeze like gherkins in ajar.
Because the road was closing down
I feared and so began to frown;
And soon I stopped and realized
That 1 was trapped on either side.
This was a sore predicament.
If I went forward, I would dent
The fender of the rented car,
If it should shove a wall too hard.
I stopped inside this narrow way
And knew not what I'd do or say.
I knew but feeble French to speak
And felt unable aid to seek.
But even had 1 fluent French,
I was entrapped as in a trench.
There was no clearance anymore.
I couldn't open any door.
But in a flash it came to me.
I should not dash or try to flee;
But slowly from my right tight spot
I'd safely come by backing up.
I then did throw it in reverse
And watched to know if any worse
Would happen. Would I scrape the car
On stone or wood to crease a scar?
Soon I was glad to thus escape
This narrow path without a break
Or damage on the vehicle
And could go home without a bill.
And soon I stood within a wood
Where Mary's statue also stood.
I waited for a chance to see
What was in store from God to me.
I ceased to stand beside a bench
And took a sandwich for my lunch
And wondered what would happen next,
While there I sat and felt perplexed.
An old man walked along the path.
With his small dog to make him laugh.
I showed him Jaki's Duhem book;
So he might take me for a look.
The old man, Joseph Greffier,
Remembered wholly well the day
Duhem was seen into the ground
In Cabrespine, to muffled sound.
For Joseph was then only eight
When Pierre passed to heaven's gate;
And he went to the funeral
And this was true, 'though he was small.
He took me then to see the home
Where Pierre spent some time alone.
I went to stand upon the ground,
Where Pierre and Helene are found
In Cabrespine below the town
Along the stream that fast flows down.
I also went to see the mayor
To whom Helene had taught his prayer.
Mayor Benjamin Tissieres.
Indeed was a kind man to me.
He asked Blandine Valette if she
Would please translate from French for me.
I know I'll not forget that time
And people, that had been so kind.
There were so many joys for me
With both Duhems so near to be.


Now we have come to the end
Of Pierre's life; so I must spend
Some thought on one, so very great,
And quickly recapitulate.
While young in Paris, he did see
War and violence come to be;
And when he grew, we know his faith
Met all the challenge of the place.
His great opponent, Berthelot,
Confined his lectures to Bordeaux;
But could not stop the publications
Of his writings to the nations.
And though his place as physicist
Is somewhere in the middle list,
Duhem does stand alone, apart,
'Mongst teachers, who, great thoughts, impart
And scholars, who, with joy, discern
A world of thought, unknown, and turn
A disadvantage to account
And from the past, great treasures, mount.
Though he has gone, we feel his wraith
Inspiring us to trust our faith
And, with his courage, life to face
Now in our time and in our place.
And now it's time to say amen
And end this story of Duhem!

Copyright Francis J. Kelly 1999