Marin Mersenne, often referred to as the father of modern acoustics, lived in Paris for most of his life but was in contact with scholars from all over Europe. Born in 1604, he attended the Jesuit College in La Flèche, one of France’s most prestigious schools for the cultural, political, and ecclesiastical elite. He then studied theology at the Sorbonne and the Collège Royal. In 1611, he abandoned his studies to enter the mendicant Order of Minims. He took up residence at the order’s monastery on the Place Royale, Paris, in 1619. He would leave Paris only for occasional journeys, such as to the Low Countries and Italy, and died there in 1648.
Mersenne was an important propagator of the “new science” in seventeenth-century France. In his early works, he defended the certainty of the sciences from skeptics, libertins, and naturalists and was still essentially Aristotelian. In his later works, he shifted more to the use of experiments. In his most important acoustical work, the Harmonie universelle (1636–1637), he combined discussions of music, sound, and experimental science, bringing together a decade of research. Apart from sound propagation and acoustics, the book discusses music theory and musical instruments at length. Mersenne’s work was an important stimulus for research, and inspired many acoustical experiments in the later academies, such as the Royal Society in London and the Académie des sciences in Paris.
- Mersenne, Marin. Quaestiones celeberrimae in Genesim. Paris: Sebastien Cramoisy, 1623.
- Mersenne, Marin. La vérité des sciences: contre les sceptiques ou pyrrhoniens. Paris: Tousaainct du Bray, 1625.
- Mersenne, Marin. Traité de l’harmonie universelle. 2 vols. Paris: Guillaume Baudry, 1627.
- Mersenne, Marin. Les préludes de l’harmonie universelle, ou: Questions curieuses utiles aux prédicateurs, aux théologiens, aux astrologues, aux médecins et aux philosophes. Paris: Henry Guénon, 1634.
- Mersenne, Marin. Questions harmoniques. Paris, 1634.
- Mersenne, Marin. Harmonie universelle; contenant la théorie et la pratique de la musique. 2 vols. Paris: Sebastien Cramoisy, 1636-1637.
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