Article ID: CBB406064217

Galileo 'philosopher geometer' and his influence on Charleton, Barrow and Keill (2020)


This article analyses how Walter Charleton, Isaac Barrow and John Keill reacted to Galileo's views concerning the composition of continuous magnitudes and the relation between physical and mathematical truths. For Galileo these two issues were closely related. He argued that mathematics is applicable to the study of nature precisely because geometrical and physical magnitudes have the same structure, being equally composed of an infinite number of unextended indivisibles ("indivisibili non quanti"). The article shows that Charleton, Barrow and Keill were unanimous in rejecting Galileo's "indivisibili non quanti," but endorsed other aspects of his project of the mathematization of nature. Charleton and Keill defended the validity of Galileo's law of free fall, but were at pains to reconcile it with their own views concerning the composition of space and time. As for the relation between physical and mathematical truths, while Charleton considered it inconvenient to transfer geometrical demonstrations to physical or sensible quantity, Barrow and Keill agreed with Galileo that all physical phenomena can, in principle, be described in the language of mathematics.

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Authors & Contributors
Lüthy, Christoph H.
Cohen, I. Bernard
Murdoch, John Emery
Newman, William Royall
Clericuzio, Antonio
Giannetto, Enrico
Galilæana: Journal of Galilean Studies
History of Universities
Dynamis: Acta Hispanica ad Medicinae Scientiarumque Historiam Illustrandam
Theoria (0495-4548)
Graduate Faculty Philosophy Journal
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
MIT Press
Leo S. Olschki
Universiteit Gent (Belgium)
Edizioni di Storia e Letteratura
Natural philosophy
Matter theory
Motion (physical)
Galilei, Galileo
Gassendi, Pierre
Boyle, Robert
Newton, Isaac
Descartes, René
Hobbes, Thomas
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
Early modern
Royal Society of London
Accademia del Cimento, Florence

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