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Beeckman, Isaac (1588–1637)

DOI: 10.4324/0123456789-DA088-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 2017
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Isaac Beeckman (1588–1637) was a Dutch pioneer of early modern atomist and mechanist speculation. By profession a maker of candles and water supply systems, and later head of various Latin schools, Beeckman devoted a lifetime to studies in natural philosophy, and has received considerable scholarly attention since the rediscovery of his Journal which he kept between 1604 and 1634.

Beeckman’s topics in these studies were the atomist assumption that natural phenomena result from nothing but the motion in empty space of small and hard bits of matter and the mechanist assumption that causal impact in the natural world takes place by way of direct contact of matter with matter. To this revival of ancient schools of atomist thought Beeckman added the principle of inertia, which he formulated independently of Galileo. Beeckman’s approach to the study of physics is a combination of applied mathematics and a preference for explanations that can be displayed visually. Notable among his achievements are his derivation of the law of falling bodies and a proof in acoustics that the length of a sounding string is inversely proportional to the frequency.

Beeckman’s scientific connections included Pierre Gassendi and Marin Mersenne. His most remarkable relation, however, was to Descartes. Their collaboration on the study of free fall is a chapter in the history of pre-Newtonian classical mechanics and their personal relationship a topic for biographers interested in Descartes’ life and the development of his philosophy.

Citing this article:
Callergård, Robert. Beeckman, Isaac (1588–1637), 2017, doi:10.4324/0123456789-DA088-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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