Institute and Museum of History of Science, Florence, ITALY

HORROR VACUI?
                      The main characters                   
Michelangelo Ricci (1619-1682) Gilles Personne Roberval (1610-1675) Gaspar Schott (1608-1666)


Roberval's experiment of the void within a void.
Saggi di naturali esperienze fatte nell'Accademia del Cimento, Florence 1666

 

 

We know very little on his childhood and adolescence. A peasant by birth, he soon left his family, journeying through various parts of France and making his living as a tutor. He arrived in Paris in 1628 and put himself in touch with the Mersenne circle, who immediately held him in great esteem. Launching himself into the Parisian world, Roberval obtained the chair of philosophy at the Collège Royal in 1634, then switched to teaching mathematics in 1655. In 1666, he was one of the founder members of the Académie des Sciences in Paris.
Even though his mechanical and astronomical works are of interest, Roberval's main contributions are in the field of pure mathematics. He developed the methods of the geometry of infinitesimals, reaching solutions which anticipate, even with inaccuracies and mistakes, integral calculus. His results in the field of analytical geometry and algebra reveal a remarkable talent and mathematical creativity.
In the context of pneumatics, Roberval studied in particular, the experiments carried out by Pascal, adding, in 1648, the determining factor of the role of air-pressure on the suspension of mercury in the barometric tube. Furthermore, he completed the ingenious apparatus which permitted the experiments on the "void within a void", which was then described by Pascal in his Traité de léquilibre des liqueurs et de la pesanteur de la masse de lair.

 

 

 


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