Mersenne’s Full Life

It turns out that the mathematician Mersenne was a priest who became general of his religious order (the Minims, which is fitting for a mathematician!). He taught philosophy, theology, science, and music, and he wrote books on just about everything and letters to just about everybody. If he had a spare moment, he’d go walk in the garden and sing and pray, because he hated to be idle. Even when he died, he asked that his body be autopsied for science. (Which I’m sure took some dispensing; but his superiors knew he wasn’t doing it as some gesture of disbelief in the Resurrection, so no real problemo.)

Here’s a brief biography by a contemporary and fellow Minim. (Translated into English.)

An extensive post on Mersenne by the eccentric and eclectic Dr. Thursday.

As for the Minims, they were founded by St. Francis of Paola. They were a Franciscan discalced order which had a fourth vow, to abstain from meat and “white food” (dairy) all the year round, instead of just in Lent. (Unless under doctor’s orders, of course.) They got their nickname because they were supposed to regard themselves as the “least” of all the religious orders. Today the order is pretty much only in Italy.

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