Marin Mersenne

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Marin Mersenne, Marin Mersennus or le Père Mersenne (September 8, 1588 – September 1, 1648) was a French theologian, philosopher, mathematician and music theorist, often referred to as the "father of acoustics" (Bohn 1988:225).

Contents

Life

Marin Mersenne (pronounced Mehr-SENN) was born of peasant parents near Oizé, Maine (present day Sarthe, France). He was educated at Le Mans and at the Jesuit College of La Flèche. On July 17, 1611, he joined the Minim Friars, and, after studying theology and Hebrew in Paris received his full holy orders in 1613.

Between 1614 and 1618, he taught theology and philosophy at Nevers, but he returned to Paris and settled at the convent of L'Annonciade in 1620. There, with other kindred spirits such as René Descartes, Étienne Pascal, Gilles de Roberval and Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, he studied mathematics and music. He corresponded with Giovanni Doni, Constantijn Huygens and other scholars in Italy, England and Holland. He was a staunch defender of Galileo, assisting him in translations of some of his mechanical works. For four years, Mersenne devoted himself entirely to philosophic and theological writing, and published Quaestiones celeberrimae in Genesim (1623); L'Impieté des déistes (1624); La Vérité des sciences (Truth of the Sciences against the Sceptics, 1624). It is sometimes incorrectly stated that he was a Jesuit. He was educated by Jesuits, but he never joined the Society of Jesus. He taught theology and philosophy at Nevers and Paris. In 1635 Mersenne met with Tommaso Campanella, but concluded that he could "teach nothing in the sciences (...) but still he has a good memory and a fertile imagination." Mersenne asked if René Descartes wanted Campanella to come to Holland to meet him, but Descartes declined. He visited Italy fifteen times, in 1640, 1641 and 1645. In 1643-1644 Mersenne also corresponded with the German Socinian Marcin Ruar concerning the Copernican ideas of Pierre Gassendi, finding Ruar already a supporter of Gassendi's position.[1]

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