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Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz
Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz
|Occupation||Spanish mathematician and theologian|
Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz (Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz, 23 May 1606 in Madrid — 7 or 8 September 1682 in Vigevano) was a Spanish Catholic scholastic philosopher, ecclesiastic, mathematician and writer. He is believed to be a great-grandson of Jan Popel z Lobkowicz.
He was a precocious child, early delving into serious problems in mathematics and even publishing astronomical tables at the age of ten. After receiving a superficial education at college, where his unusual ability brought rapid advancement, this prodigy turned his attention to the Asiatic languages, especially Chinese. He was received into the Cistercian Order at the monastery of La Espina, in the diocese of Palencia, and after ordination entered upon a varied and brilliant career.
His sermons attracted the favorable attention of the Infante Ferdinand, Governor of the Low Countries, while he was attached to the monastery of Dunes in Flanders, and in 1638 he was honored with the degree of Doctor of Theology by the University of Leuven. When he was obliged to leave the Electorate of the Palatinate, Philip IV of Spain made him his envoy to the court of Emperor Ferdinand III. He was in turn Abbot of Melrose, Scotland (Scotland), Abbot-Superior of the Benedictines of Vienna, and Grand-Vicar to the Archbishop of Prague.
In 1648, when the Swedes attacked Prague, he armed and led a band of ecclesiastics who did yeoman service in the defence of the city. His bravery on this occasion merited for him a collar of gold from the emperor. Soon after he became Bishop of Satrianum, then Campagna, and at his death was Bishop of Vigevano.
Caramuel was in active epistolary relations with the most famous scholars of the time:the philosophers René Descartes and Pierre Gassendi; the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher; the Czech Capuchin friar and astronomer Anton Maria Schyrleus of Rheita, the Bohemian doctor Jan Marek Marci, Pope Alexander VII (Fabio Chigi), who was a great admirer of his work; the Belgian astronomer Godefroy Wendelin, the theologians Franciscus Bonae Spei and Antonino Diana, Giovanni Battista Hodierna, Johannes Hevelius, Valerianus Magnus, Juan Eusebio Nieremberg and many others.
His books are even more numerous than his titles and his varied achievements; for, according to Jean-Noël Paquot, he published no fewer than 262 works on grammar, poetry, oratory, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, physics, politics, canon law, logic, metaphysics, theology and asceticism. He loved to defend novel theories, and in Theologia moralis ad prima atque clarissima principia reducta (Leuven, 1643) tried to solve theological problems by mathematical rules. He was a leading exponent of probabilism and his permissive moral opinions were criticized in Pascal's Provincial Letters and gained for him from Alphonsus Liguori the title of "Prince of the Laxists".
His mathematical work centred on combinatorics and he was one of the early writers on probability, republishing Huygens's work on dice with helpful explanations.Caramuel's Mathesis biceps presents some original contributions to the field of mathematics: he proposed a new method of approximation for trisecting an angle and proposed a form of logarithm that prefigure cologarithms, although he was not understood by his contemporaries. Caramuel was also the first mathematician who made a reasoned study on non-decimal counts, thus making a significant contribution to the development of the binary numeral system.
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