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Music and the Making of Modern Science$
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Peter Pesic

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780262027274

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262027274.001.0001

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Mersenne’s Universal Harmony

Mersenne’s Universal Harmony

(p.103) 7 Mersenne’s Universal Harmony
Music and the Making of Modern Science

Peter Pesic

The MIT Press

Music was completely central for the natural philosophy of Mersenne. This chapter begins with his musical arguments for heliocentrism, against the hermetist Robert Fludd. Mersenne’s Harmonie Universelle shows the closest relation between practical music, its theory, and natural philosophy. In it, he was able to reach certain results well before Galileo Galilei. Mersenne presented musical devices to make pioneering measurements of the frequency of vibrating strings and of the speed of sound. His detailed treatment of the mechanics of falling bodies, inclined planes and pendulums supported and enabled his ensuing deductions about vibrating bodies, which extended Descartes’s work. Mersenne’s understanding of overtones both profited from and struggled with his musical preconceptions, as did his attempt to incorporate atomism into his account of vibrating bodies. Throughout the book where various sound examples are referenced, please see http://mitpress.mit.edu/musicandmodernscience (please note that the sound examples should be viewed in Chrome or Safari Web browsers).

Keywords:   Marin Mersenne, Music, Heliocentrism, Vibrating strings, Robert Fludd, Galileo Galilei, Frequency, Vibrating bodies, Overtones, Atomism

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