He had been invited to Russia by Peter the Great. In 1732 he built a thermometer that used mercury as a working fluid. Delisle chose his scale using the temperature of boiling water as the fixed zero point and measured the contraction of the mercury (with lower temperatures) in hundred-thousandths. The Celsius scale too originally ran from zero for boiling water down to 100 for freezing water. This was reversed to its modern order some time after his death, in part at the instigation of Daniel Ekström, the manufacturer of most of the thermometers used by Celsius.
The Delisle thermometers usually had 2400 graduations, appropriate to the winter in St. Petersburg. In 1738 Josias Weitbrecht recalibrated the Delisle thermometer with 0 degrees as the boiling point and 150 degrees as the freezing point of water. The Delisle thermometer remained in use for almost 100 years in Russia.