Catalogo della Corrispondenza di Marin Mersenne

mersenne

All’interno dell’interessante portale Early Modern Letters Online (EMTO), dedicato agli epistolari di età moderna, trovate il Catalogo della Corrispondenza di Marin Mersenne, matematico, filosofo e scienzato in contatto con i più noti filosofi, eruditi e scienziati del suo tempo: N.-C. Fabri de Peiresc, R. Descartes, P. Gassendi, P. Fermat, Pascal padre e figlio, Th. Hobbes, Ch. Huygens, E. Torricelli.

Nel catalogo sono presenti le descrizioni delle lettere, delle biblioteche che conservano il manoscritto e della presenza della versione stampata.

“Mersenne was one of the most active ‘intelligencers’ and intellectual impresarios of the seventeenth century. He is perhaps best known as the friend, correspondent, and agent of Descartes, but his network of personal and intellectual contacts ranged far and wide, including not only philosophers but also mathematicians, musical theorists, medical men, antiquarians, oriental scholars, and theologians — Dutch, English and Italian as well as French, and Protestant as well as Catholic. He acted as midwife to many publications, and wrote significant works of his own on theology, music, and natural philosophy.

Of fairly humble origins (his father was an overseer of farm workers), Mersenne was a pupil at the Jesuit college of La Flèche from 1604 to 1609. After two years studying theology at the Sorbonne he entered the Minim order of friars in 1611. From 1619 until the end of his life (with occasional interruptions) he lived in the Minim convent near the Place royale in Paris. His early publications were, in part or in whole, polemical works, directed against hermeticists and occultists, deists, libertines, and sceptics; his attack on the hermeticist Robert Fludd brought him to the attention of Pierre Gassendi, who became a close friend. During the early 1620s he also became acquainted with Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc, who introduced him to a wider circle of Parisian intellectuals and became a mentor, and a model, for Mersenne’s own development as an intelligencer. In 1626 Mersenne published the first of his scientific compilations, Synopsis mathematica, a collection of ancient and recent mathematical texts. By this stage he had begun holding weekly scientific discussions in his convent, and developing correspondence with learned men throughout Europe. His close friendship with Descartes apparently dates from the latter’s long stays in Paris in the 1620s; when Descartes moved to the Netherlands in 1628 he entrusted Mersenne with the task of managing all his French correspondence.

During the early 1630s Mersenne was attracted to, and became an active proselytiser for, the ‘new’ mechanistic philosophy. This may have been stimulated by a visit to Isaac Beeckman in the Netherlands in 1630; it was strengthened by prolonged study of the works of Galileo, whose treatise on mechanics Mersenne translated and published in 1634. In the mid-1630s he was also working intensively on musical matters, gathering and publishing a mass of material on almost every aspect of music, from its physics to its history. Mersenne went to great trouble to arrange the publication of Descartes’s Meditationes in 1641, commissioning sets of ‘objections’ from various writers, to which Descartes wrote replies. Two of the objectors were major philosophers deeply opposed to Cartesian principles: Gassendi and Thomas Hobbes (who had first met Mersenne in the mid-1630s, and became a close friend after his move to Paris in late 1640). It was characteristic of Mersenne that he could maintain the most friendly relations with people who were intellectually at daggers drawn; another of his most valued acquaintances was the mathematician Gilles Personne de Roberval, a notoriously outspoken anti-Cartesian.

Mersenne published two important compilations of scientific works in 1644, and a third in 1647; they included treatises by Hobbes and Roberval, and texts by Torricelli. He travelled to Italy in 1644–5, and to the south of France in 1646–7. But after his return to Paris he fell ill, and on 1 September 1648 he died. He left several unpublished manuscripts (an optical treatise was printed in 1651), a mass of correspondence, and grieving friends throughout the learned world. Mersenne was not a major original thinker, but the stimulus he gave to other writers in many fields — by posing problems, transmitting objections, supplying information, brokering contacts, prompting publication or indeed organizing it himself — was absolutely invaluable”.

 

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Archiviato in Cataloghi, Filosofia della scienza, Lettere

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