Birthplace: Oizé, Maine, France
Location of death: Paris, France
Cause of death: unspecified
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Executive summary: L'Harmonie universelle
French philosopher and mathematician, born of peasant parents near Oizé (Sarthe) on the 8th of September 1588, and died in Paris on the 1st of September 1648. He was educated at the Jesuit College of La Flèche, where he was a fellow pupil and friend of René Descartes. In 1611 he joined the Minim Friars, and devoted himself to philosophic teaching in various convent schools. He settled eventually in Paris in 1620 at the convent of L'Annonciade. For the next four years he devoted himself entirely to philosophic and theological writing, and published Quaestiones celeberrimae in Genesim (1623); L'Impiété des deistes (1624); La Vérité des sciences (1624). These works are characterized by wide scholarship and the narrowest theological orthodoxy. His greatest service to philosophy was his enthusiastic defense of Descartes, whose agent he was in Paris and whom he visited in exile in Holland. He submitted to various eminent Parisian thinkers a manuscript copy of the Meditations, and defended its orthodoxy against numerous clerical critics. In later life, he gave up speculative thought and turned to scientific research, especially in mathematics, physics and astronomy. Of his works in this connection the best known is L'Harmonie universelle (1636) dealing with the theory of music and musical instruments.
But Mersenne's most lasting memory are the Mersenne primes, those of format 2^n-1. Because of their properties it is easier to determine their primality than other numbers, and thus the largest known primes are all Mersennes.
Among his other works are: Euclidis elementorum libri, etc. (Paris, 1626); Universae geometriae synopsis (1644); Les Méchaniques de Galilee (Paris, 1634); Questions inouies ou récréations des savants (1634); Questions théologiques, physiques, &c. (1634); Nouvelles découvertes de Galilee (1639); Cogeitata physico-mathematica (1644).
University: Jesuit College of La Flèche
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