Beeckman’s engagement of mechanics and philosophy
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Isaac Beeckman (1588–1637) was a master craftsman from the Zeeland town Middelburg who studied to become schoolmaster in the Holland towns of Rotterdam and Dordrecht. He was a strict Calvinist and a tireless observer and contemplator of natural phenomena. Foremost, he was the first mechanical philosopher in Europe who played a key role in the intellectual development of René Descartes (1596–1650) and inspired pioneers of mechanistic thinking Marin Mersenne (1588–1648) and Pierre Gassendi (1592–1655). We know this because Beeckman kept a journal throughout his life in which he recorded his observations and ideas. The journal is a treasure trove of early modern knowing. Beeckman had a keen eye for the world around him and responded to what he saw, as well as the reflections of others, with a highly original mind. The journal was discovered in 1905 by Cornelis de Waard (1879–1963), who subsequently edited and published it between 1939 and 1953 (Beeckman 1939–1953). Although some...
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