Author: Konoval, Brandon
Publication details: “Pythagorean Pipe Dreams? Vincenzo Galilei, Marin Mersenne, and the Pneumatic Mysteries of the Pipe Organ.” Perspectives on Science 26, no. 1 (2018): 1-51.
Abstract: The pipe organ presented early modern science with a pneumatic black box of suggestive dimensions: while producing musical pitches and intervals that corresponded with those of an acoustic device like the monochord, pipe dimensions approached, but yet confounded clear association with the behavior of strings. Nevertheless, investigators like Vincenzo Galilei(c.1520–1591) and Marin Mersenne (1588–1648) continued to rely conceptually upon the monochord and the traditional ratios associated with it in their attempts to discipline the complex variables attending the acoustic properties of pipes. Thus, while certain conventions of historiography associate Vincenzo and Mersenne with a “disenchantment” of Pythagorean traditions that ostensibly retarded the development of an early modern physico-mathematics, their ratios of pipe scaling reveal instead a robust and evolving contribution of Pythagoreanism to mathematical reading of the Book of Nature.