Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz

Last updated
Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz
Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz.jpg
Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz
Born1606 (1606)
Died1682 (1683) (aged 76)
OccupationSpanish 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: [1] 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.


Hatching table printed by Lobkowitz in 1636 Caramuel Lobkowitz szinjelolesi tabla 1636 p. 3.PNG
Hatching table printed by Lobkowitz in 1636
The facade of the Vigevano Cathedral (in Italy) was designed and built by Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz Vigevano-duomo2-2010.jpg
The facade of the Vigevano Cathedral (in Italy) was designed and built by Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz

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. [2] 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. [3] 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. [1]

The Cardinal was also responsible for the design of the facade of the Vigevano Cathedral.

Printed Works

Mathesis nova, 1670 Caramuel Lobkowitz - Mathesis nova, 1670 - 63840.jpg
Mathesis nova, 1670


  1. 1 2 Ares, J., Lara, J., Lizcano, D. et al. Who Discovered the Binary System and Arithmetic? Did Leibniz Plagiarize Caramuel?, Sci. Eng. Ethics (2018) 24: 173-188. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-017-9890-6
  2. The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability before Pascal, James Franklin, JHU Press, 2015,
  3. Juan Vernet, Dictionary of Scientific Biography [1971], cited in Jens Høyrup, Barocco e scienza secentesca: un legame inesistente?, published in Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, 25 (1997), 141-172.

Related Research Articles

Vigevano Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Vigevano is a town and comune in the province of Pavia, Lombardy in northern Italy. A historic art town, it is also renowned for shoemaking and is one of the main centres of Lomellina, a rice-growing agricultural district. Vigevano received the honorary title of city with a decree of Duke Francis II Sforza on 2 February 1532. It is famed for its beautiful Renaissance "Piazza Ducale" in the centre of the town.

Christian Wolff (philosopher) German philosopher

Christian Wolff was a German philosopher. Wolff was the most eminent German philosopher between Leibniz and Kant. His main achievement was a complete oeuvre on almost every scholarly subject of his time, displayed and unfolded according to his demonstrative-deductive, mathematical method, which perhaps represents the peak of Enlightenment rationality in Germany.

The cent is a logarithmic unit of measure used for musical intervals. Twelve-tone equal temperament divides the octave into 12 semitones of 100 cents each. Typically, cents are used to express small intervals, or to compare the sizes of comparable intervals in different tuning systems, and in fact the interval of one cent is too small to be perceived between successive notes.

In theology and philosophy, probabilism is an ancient Greek doctrine (πιθανισμός) of academic skepticism. It holds that in the absence of certainty, probability is the best criterion. The term can also refer to a 17th-century religious thesis about ethics, or a modern physical-philosophical thesis.

Lobkowicz family noble family

The House of Lobkowicz is a Czech noble family that dates back to the 14th century and is one of the oldest Bohemian noble families. The first Lobkowiczs were members of the gentry of north-eastern Bohemia in the late 14th century.

Einstein (crater) lunar crater

Einstein is a large lunar impact crater that lies along the western limb of the Moon, making it difficult to observe from the Earth. The visibility of this formation is affected by libration effects, but even under the best conditions not much detail can be observed except from lunar orbit. Nearby craters of note include Moseley just to the north, Dalton along the eastern rim, Vasco da Gama just to the southeast, and Bohr to the south-southeast. The formation Vallis Bohr is visible to the south.

Antonio Escobar y Mendoza Jesuit theologian

Antonio Escobar y Mendoza was the leading ethicist of his time.

Formal epistemology uses formal methods from decision theory, logic, probability theory and computability theory to model and reason about issues of epistemological interest. Work in this area spans several academic fields, including philosophy, computer science, economics, and statistics. The focus of formal epistemology has tended to differ somewhat from that of traditional epistemology, with topics like uncertainty, induction, and belief revision garnering more attention than the analysis of knowledge, skepticism, and issues with justification.

Richard Carl Jeffrey was an American philosopher, logician, and probability theorist. He is best known for developing and championing the philosophy of radical probabilism and the associated heuristic of probability kinematics, also known as Jeffrey conditioning.

The aim of a probabilistic logic is to combine the capacity of probability theory to handle uncertainty with the capacity of deductive logic to exploit structure of formal argument. The result is a richer and more expressive formalism with a broad range of possible application areas. Probabilistic logics attempt to find a natural extension of traditional logic truth tables: the results they define are derived through probabilistic expressions instead. A difficulty with probabilistic logics is that they tend to multiply the computational complexities of their probabilistic and logical components. Other difficulties include the possibility of counter-intuitive results, such as those of Dempster-Shafer theory in evidence-based subjective logic. The need to deal with a broad variety of contexts and issues has led to many different proposals.

Catholic probabilism

In Catholic moral theology, probabilism provides a way of answering the question about what to do when one does not know what to do. Probabilism proposes that one can follow an authoritative opinion regarding whether an act may be performed morally, even though the opposite opinion is more probable. It was first formulated in 1577 by Bartholomew Medina, OP, who taught at Salamanca.

Franciscus Bonae Spei was a Catholic scholastic theologian and philosopher.

Josip Stadler 19th and 20th-century Catholic bishop

Josip Stadler was a Roman Catholic priest, the first Archbishop of Vrhbosna, the founder of the religious order of the Servants of the Infant Jesus. He is a candidate for sainthood.

Roman Catholic Diocese of Vigevano diocese of the Catholic Church

The Italian Catholic Diocese of Vigevano lies almost entirely in the Province of Pavia, Lombardy. It has existed since 1530. The diocese is suffragan of the Archdiocese of Milan, having in the past been suffragan of the Archdiocese of Vercelli.

Second scholasticism is the period of revival of scholastic system of philosophy and theology, in the 16th and 17th centuries. The scientific culture of second scholasticism surpassed its medieval source (Scholasticism) in the number of its proponents, the breadth of its scope, the analytical complexity, sense of historical and literary criticism, and the volume of editorial production, most of which remains hitherto little explored.

Juan Cardenas Spanish theologian

Juan Cardenas was a Spanish Jesuit moral theologian and author. He entered the Society of Jesus at the age of fourteen, and during many years held in it the office of rector, master of novices, and provincial.

Vigevano Cathedral church building in Vigevano, Italy

Vigevano Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral dedicated to Saint Ambrose and located in the Piazza Ducale of Vigevano, Italy. It is the seat of the Bishop of Vigevano. The present building dates from the 16th century, with a west front of the 1670s.

Adriaan Heereboord was a Dutch philosopher and logician.

Henricus Calenus or Henri van Caelen (1583–1653) was a clergyman in the Spanish Netherlands, closely involved in the early history of Jansenism.

Rodrigo de Arriaga Spanish philosopher, jesuit, theologian

Rodrigo de Arriaga was a Spanish philosopher, theologian and Jesuit. He is known as one of the foremost Spanish Jesuits of his day and as a leading representative of post-Suárezian baroque Jesuit nominalism.


Wikisource-logo.svg  This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz". Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.

Further reading

See also