Institute and Museum of History of Science, Florence, ITALY

                      The main characters                   
Accademia del Cimento (1657-1667) Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) Adrien Auzout (1622-1691)




Son of the physician to the king of Macedonia, in 367 B.C. he entered Plato's Academy in Athens, where he stayed until his master's death in 347. After performing the role of tutor to the future Macedonian king Alexander the Great, he settled in Athens, where he founded, in 335, a famous school called the "Lyceum" or "Peripatetic school". He was the author of fundamental works in various camps of knowledge: The Organon (logical writings), Metaphysica, Physica, On the Soul, The Nicomachean Ethics, Economics, Politics, Poetics, Rhetoric.
Indeed, aristotelian thought has an encyclopaedic character to it, investigating nearly every domain of knowledge, organically and coherently, proceeding from a few fundamental philosophical principles, such as the four causes, the dialectic between potentiality and act, and the distinction between matter and form.
Aristotle's "physics" exploits a qualitative analysis of natural phenomena, usually without recourse to mathematical methods. In the aristotelian cosmology, the Earth - place of corruption - was positioned at the centre of the Universe and composed of the four elements: earth, water, air and fire, which moved naturally in straight lines, either upwards, or downwards. The motions of the celestial bodies (the Sun, the planets and the stars), on the other hand, were uniform and circular. To explain the independent motion of the planets, Aristotle imagined that they rotated on concentric spheres. Aristotle's physics was cleansed in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, above all by Saint Thomas Aquinas, of those ideas which were incompatible with the Christian faith (such as the eternity of the world, the materiality of the soul, etc.). It became the basis of university courses, remaining more or less unchallenged until it came up against the claims of the new mathematical and experimental science.
Among aristotelian theories of physics, an important role is played by the doctrine which denies any reality whatsoever to the void. According to Aristotle, an empty space is nothing but a contradiction in terms, space (or rather "place", topos in Greek), being nothing other than the limit of bodies, so that there cannot be a space (place) without the presence of bodies. In the Fourth Book of the Physics, in particular, Aristotle goes on to show the paradoxes which, on the basis of this definition, would proceed from the acceptance of the real existence of a void.





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