From: "Joseph E. Houle" <email@example.com> To: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: marin mersenne Date: Tue, 12 Nov 1996 15:41:47 -0500 Dear Luke, Congratulations on your Marin Mersenne website. Mersenne,however, was not a Jesuit. He was a member of a now very obscure religious community known as "Minims." They were very popular in 16-17th century France and although following a very austere life-style, they were generally free to pursue their own interests. Thus Mersenne carried out many experiments in the physics of sound. The French scientists of his day -Pascal, Descartes,Fermat, etc. met periodically at his residence and thus formed a prototype of the French and, later, London (Royal) scientific socities. His vast correspondence ,in effect, constitutes one of the first scientific journals. Far from being an inquisitor, Mersenne favored free interchange of scientific results and counselled Descartes on how to avoid trouble with the authorities. He disliked Fludd because the latter reminded him of those who tended to defraud school-boys when he was a student at LaFleche. Mersenne called all these people "magiciens" whom he saw as the very opposite of those who relied on scientific measurement. By contemporary accounts, Mersenne was a very amiable person much interested in scientific progress. The "Dict. of Scientific Biography" has an authoritative article on him. Good luck with your interests. Regards,Joe.
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 1996 16:25:45 -0800 To: "Joseph E. Houle" <email@example.com> From: Luther Welsh Subject: Re: marin mersenne Hi Joe. Thanks for a great email! At 03:41 PM 11/12/96 -0500, you wrote: > >Mersenne,however, was not a Jesuit. He was a member of a now very obscure >religious community known as "Minims." I was under the (false?) impression that the Minims were Jesuits. There are also some "Minims" associated with Notre Dame University, but it may be nothing more than a name for some young people, perhaps orphans, taken under the University's wing. [...] >The French scientists of his day -Pascal, Descartes,Fermat, etc. I think he and Descartes were students together and that the college was Jesuit. >met periodically at his residence residence? :-) I had the impression it was a monastic cell -- dank, small, .... >Far from being an inquisitor, Well, that was my little joke -- guilt by association. Do you think I'm doing him a dis-service? Maybe I should call him a "hater-of- magiciens" or something? >Mersenne favored free interchange of scientific results and counselled >Descartes on how to avoid trouble with the authorities. He also defended Galileo! >He disliked Fludd because the latter reminded him of >those who tended to defraud school-boys when he was a student at LaFleche. Now this sounds interesting. And it was LaFleche that was Jesuit and where he studied with Descartes. But you say "school-boys". LaFleche wasn't a college? Perhaps in those days a college was for teenagers? >Mersenne called all these people "magiciens" who he saw as the very >opposite of those who relied on scientific measurement. By contemporary >accounts, Mersenne was a very amiable person ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ This surprises me! I never envisioned him as a very nice person. >much interested in scientific progress. >The "Dict. of Scientific Biography" has an authoritative article on him. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Do you know the publisher? Do you know of any California libraries that have it? Do you have any idea as to the origin of the name "Mersenne"? A net.friend has suggested that is may come from Old French 'mers' (goods, merchandise), but he counsels not to bet on it. Thanks!!!!!!! --Luke
From: "Joseph E. Houle" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: "luke welsh" <email@example.com> Subject: Marin Mersenne Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 10:22:36 -0500 Dear Luke, Thanks for your prompt reply. I was trained as a mathematician, but spent twenty years as a dean of faculty at [permission pending]. When I left that job some students gave me an encyclopedia of music and in leafing through that I found that MM was just as famous in music as in math & science. There are several doctoral dissertations on his theories in music. I am now fully retired and MM as a personality remains interesting to me. Dear's book on MM and the development of modern science out of scholastic and renaissance schools remains the best and the latest. I have heard of another work that would shed light on the relationship between MM and Galileo -- both personal and scientific. To my knowledge, it has not been published and it is possible that the authors are deceased. Apparently MM wrote to Galileo and never received a response. MM thought that Galileo went beyond the results of his experiments and MM reproached him for that. If Galileo had listened to MM we can speculate that the relationship between G and the Church would have turned out differently. In a narrow sense, my understanding is that G was condemned for asserting that he had proved something, and there is at least some evidence that G's discussion had the kind of flaw that MM had pointed out. I am not an expert on that, however. The group of Minims at Notre Dame may well be a like minded student club or even the math club that chose the name out of irony. I think MM would have liked that. I visited the Minim House in Rome several years ago. There are not many more than 100 or so left. They are, nevertheless, very highly esteemed in the church. They were favored by French royalty and for many years had the Church of Trinita dei Monti at the Spanish Steps in Rome. That church was the church that "belonged" to the French King. In1990 there were two Spanish-speaking minims in a church in Los Angeles. I have no idea whether there are any still in the US. As friars, they tend to be very mobile and go where the sprit leads them without regard, even, to the continuation of their religious order. Their long-standing spirit seems to foster humility and, indeed, amiability. They were known in France as "les bons hommes." MM probably did not know Descartes at La Fleche. I believe Descartes was several years younger. Yes, La Fleche was one of the first Jesuit schools. Much as today -- or yesterday -- the younger teachers were fresh from the Universities. That made for a lively atmosphere. La Fleche was much like the classical Jesuit secondary school in today's cities. It was an altogether new type of establishment. The students lived in town,not at the school. It is thus that they were vulnerable to all kinds of charlatans. MM was very much against any kind of cheating -- especially in scientific measurement. Of course lots of the advances in science came from people who could make a conceptual leap ahead of the data. That MM could not do. While their personal space was truly minimal, the Minim house in Paris must have had comfortable -- for the times -- public rooms. It was located two streets from the Palais Royal in the Marais section of Paris on a street that is still called "rue des Minimes." As favorites of the French royalty who often subvened the publication of MM's work, the Minim house was destroyed during the French Revolution. While respectful of Church authority, MM knew his way around Rome and not only managed to work around anything that would get in his way but also counselled others,especially Descartes. on how to do the same. The Dict. of Sci. Bio. can usually be found in the reference section of most public and school libraries. I do not know the origin of the name Mersenne. At that time in France many names had lost any kind of meaning. MM's father, by the way, seems to have been some kind of estate agent superintending farmers who held their land in fief. Marin was a relatively common first name. Only very large research libraries have MM's collected correspondence. It runs to sixteen -- I think-- very large volumes and really merits the over-used adjective "awesome." Good luck in all your endeavors. Joe.