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Pierre Gassendi

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22 Jan 1592

Champtercier, Provence, France

24 Oct 1655

Paris, France

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Pierre Gassendi attended school at Digne from 1599 to 1606 then continued his education at home supervised by his uncle. Then, in 1608, he entered the University of Aix where he studied philosophy for two years then theology for a further two years.

Gassendi was Principal at the College of Digne from 1612 to 1614, then he received a doctorate in theology from Avignon and was ordained in 1615, one year later. He had already been appointed canon at a church in Digne in 1614. He held this post until 1634 when he was elevated to dean.

In addition to these positions in the church, Gassendi was appointed professor of philosophy at the University of Aix in 1617. However this position only lasted until 1623 when the Jesuit order took control of the university of Aix and he was forced to leave. He did not hold any further academic posts until 1645 when he was appointed professor of mathematics at the Collège Royale in Paris.

Gassendi first met Mersenne in 1624 when he visited Paris. Mersenne tried to persuade him to give up mathematics and theology in favour of philosophy.

Gassendi rejected Descartes ' philosophy, emphasising the inductive method. He believed in atomism and defended a mechanistic explanation of nature.

Kepler had predicted a transit of Mercury would occur in 1631 and Gassendi was the first to observe such a transit. He wrote on astronomy, his own astronomical observations and on falling bodies.

Of course Gassendi published on philosophy. His first work was Exercitationes paradoxicae (1624), basically his lecture course at Aix written up for publication. In 1649 he published Animadversiones containing work on Epicurus . His Philosophical Treatise was published 3 years after his death.

Source:School of Mathematics and Statistics University of St Andrews, Scotland