Institute and Museum of History of Science, Florence, ITALY

                      The main characters                   
Otto von Guericke (1602-1686) Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) Robert Hooke (1635-1702)

Thomas Hobbes.


Born at Malmesbury, in Wiltshire, from his youth he journeyed in many European countries, contacting numerous savants on the Continent, including Galileo, whom he visited in Arcetri, and Mersenne. In his home land, Hobbes was an active participant in the political struggles which were then afflicting England. A tenacious supporter of the King, he was forced, in 1640, to retire to France, where he remained until 1651. After the Restoration, he enjoyed the protection of Charles II, whom he had taught mathematics, and although occasionally involved in disputes and controversies on a variety of subjects, was able to dedicate himself entirely to intellectual pursuits.
Amongst the most important philosophers of the modern age, Hobbes made great contributions above all in the field of political theory - in which he announced an original and drastic absolutist notion of state power - in logic and the philosophy of nature. In general, his entire thought is dominated by a rigidly mechanistic system. On this basis, in every field of research, one must privilege the identification of laws which are similar to those already established, in a strictly mathematical form, by Galileo in the context of mechanical science. In this sense, for Hobbes, the basic categories to be used for the analysis of reality, in any context, are represented by concepts of body and movement. This latter should be understood in terms of a deductively constructed mathematical relation, expressing the formal principle of organisation of the phenomenon under scrutiny.
This tendency towards analytical and formal investigation lead Hobbes to develop a critical attitude towards experimentation. With this in mind, in 1661, he composed his Dialogus physicus de natura aeris, a brief but pungent attack against the pneumatic experiments performed by Robert Boyle. It's not surprising, then, that despite his reputation and prestige, Hobbes was excluded from the infant Royal Society, of which he had a far from positive opinion, declaring - probably with a pinch of poorly hidden resentment - that he counted himself lucky not to have been called to take part.




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