Chapter 5 – Empiricism against the Renaissance

What has philosophy to do with measuring. It’s the mathematicians you’ve got to trust; they
are the surveyors of empty air the way I can survey the field and tell you how long it is.”

            Le Opere di Galileo Galilei (The Works of Galileo Galilei)

    This chapter brings us back to the fundamental issue raised at the beginning of this work: the nature of man and his role in the universe. Venice's break with the Holy Alliance was not simply political; it was a realization by Sarpi and his associates that feudalism and backwardness could no longer be imposed by brute force and superstition. The Renaissance idea of the commonwealth, Cusa's revolution in science, and the economic progress they both engendered, could no longer be contained either by Venice's purely geopolitical maneuvering, nor by the belief structures of the middle ages. These beliefs were, in fact, inevitably doomed. The work of Cusa, leading a century later into the discoveries of Johannes Kepler, annihilated the entire medieval Aristotelean philosophy.

    Sarpi knew that there was no saving the old mechanisms of social control. In order to preserve oligarchical rule he formulated a threefold strategy: 1) Develop a new science of radical materialism, known as empiricism, and demand that all scientific investigation utilize this empirical method; 2) Use the “discoveries” of this new empirical science, to falsely claim for himself and his associates the laurels for overturning the dictatorship of Aristoteleanism (this is where the “Galileo Project” fits in); 3) Utilizing sympathetic networks and individuals, to spread this new empirical science from one corner of Europe to another, until it was hegemonic everywhere.

    Lyndon LaRouche has defined the empirical method of Sarpi as follows:

    Essentially what Sarpi did was to say, “Since scientific progress can no longer be stopped, I will determine the method of all scientific investigation. I will determine, not merely what people think about the physical universe, but how they think, and I will ensure that individual human creativity, and the method of lawful hypothesis, is banned from all scientific investigation.”

    In Sarpi's world, there is no hypothesis, there is no creativity, and there is no discovery. Only “observation” and calculation of linear data exists. The 21st century name for this is information theory, and in a world governed by this theory, no human identity is possible. Machines and computers may exist, but the ability to make actual discoveries of principle has been outlawed. If this seems too difficult to understand, think of the difference between Kepler and Galileo: Kepler sought to discover the principles behind astronomical phenomena; Galileo looked at the stars and wrote down his statistical observations. For Galileo, and Sarpi, Kepler's universal principles simply do not exist, because they can not be touched, heard, smelled or visibly seen.

Sarpi & Ockham

    In order to develop his new science, Sarpi went back to the writings of a 14th century Franciscan friar named William of Ockham (Occam). Today Ockham is mostly remembered from just one famous quote, which has come to be known as “Ockham's Razor”:

Pluralitas non est ponenda sine neccesitate,” or, in English, “Entities should 
not be multiplied unnecessarily.”

    Roughly, Ockham's meaning is that when confronted with a scientific problem, in which there are several possible solutions or areas of investigation, the answer lies with the simplest and most obvious. This reductionist method denies any role for human reason or hypothesis and rejects any idea of universal principles. Ockham was also a fanatic materialist, claiming that all human knowledge is based solely on sense perception. Utilizing Ockham's approach, whatever shred of causality or human thought, which had existed previously in Aristoteleanism, was eliminated entirely.

    Paolo Sarpi stated openly that Ockham was the greatest influence on his own scientific outlook. In a letter to the French Huguenot Francois Hotman on July 22, 1608, Sarpi says of Ockham, “Io l’ho stimato sopra tutti li scolastici,” which roughly translated is, “I have esteemed him (Ockham) above all the schoolmen.”

    Beginning in 1578, and continuing for many years, Sarpi began writing his Pensieri, a series of works on mathematics, biology, philosophy and religion. Laudatory references to Ockham abound throughout the work. These writings were never published, but were widely circulated to Sarpi's friends in the ridotti. Sarpi authored three sets of Pensieri, the first on mathematics, philosophy, and physics, the second on medicine and morals, and the third on religion. In the Pensieri Filosofici Sarpi argues on the defects in man’s nature which make religion and government necessary in order to control man’s passions and baser animalistic impulses. This argument anticipates Descartes' later view of a linear mechanistic physical universe, combined with irrational human emotions. The Pensieri Religione contains a long attack on Aristotle and on Christian concepts of natural law. Sarpi states that it is impossible for man to know natural law or any universal principles, due to the limits on human reasoning. In the famous Pensieri #146,2 Sarpi is most explicit in his empiricist method, as well as his extreme materialism. There is no reality whatsoever outside the world of sensory experience.

    The Pensieri were not Ivory Tower speculations. The ideas set forth by Sarpi were immediately put into practice to develop a new experimental science and a new mathematics, based on his reductionist empiricist methodology. According to his 18th century biographer, who examined Sarpi’s private papers at the Library of the Servi in Venice, Sarpi’s papers included many works on geometry, mechanics, hydraulics, pneumatics, optics, astronomy, and acoustics. Sarpi’s first major area of research was his 1582-1585 work on anatomy, a subject which he had earlier studied at Padua. Later, as Sarpi's ideas gained influence in various European university faculties, the earliest recruits were among the professors of medicine and mathematics, and, it was in those fields that Sarpi’s mechanistic methods spread most quickly.

    Among the initial Venetian group which promoted Sarpi’s “new science,” were Giovanni Francesco Sagredo, Santorio Santorio, and Marc Antonio de Dominis. De Dominis, who we have already met in the previous chapter, was a Professor of Mathematics at the University of Padua, where he conducted experiments on optics, physics, and mechanics. Sagredo, a leading Venetian aristocrat, was also a mathematician, and he was Sarpi's personal “controller” of Galileo. He actually invented the first modern version of a thermometer, which is usually attributed to Galileo. Santorio was the Chair of Theoretical Medicine at the University of Padua. His belief in mechanics was so insane that for 30 years he not only weighed himself every day, but also weighed all the food and fluids he consumed as well as all the urine and feces he emitted. He was celebrated for his empirical methodology.3 He denied the “essence” of things, insisting on the fundamental mathematical and mechanical nature of things, which could only be discovered through sense perception.

The Assault on Aristotle

    Aristoteleanism had dominated Europe from the 11th through the early 15th centuries, including in the universities and the Catholic Church. It was never good. But the anti-cognitive, fixed, perfected, universe of Aristotle was perfect for Venice’s zero-growth caste system of the medieval centuries. During that period, Aristotle’s views on cosmology, music, biology, and economics were accepted with almost the fervor of religious fundamentalism. After the revolution in science effected by Nicholas of Cusa this became impossible.

    The question arises: “What's the big deal? Don't Aristotle and Sarpi both base their ideology on sense-perception?” Yes, they do, but in Sarpi, you have this method in extremis. It’s like the difference between a body-builder in a gym who says “no pain, no gain” and the Marquis de Sade. The concept pain takes on a different meaning. With Sarpi, human reasoning ceases to exist.

    In 1604, the Sarpi cabal unleashed an open public war against Aristoteleanism and the Aristotelean priesthood at the University of Padua. At the time, Padua was the premier center of Aristotelean scholarship in all of Europe, and had produced the two most renowned teachers of Aristotelean logic during that era, the professors Giacomo Zabarella (1533-1589) and Cesare Cremonini (1550-1631). The opening salvo of this attack was a series of lectures by Galileo Galilei, targeting Aristotle's cosmology, i.e., the notion of the “fixed stars,” existing within a static, perfected universe. These lectures were given a sensational PR treatment by the Sarpi network, based on Galileo's alleged recent discovery of the “New Star,” (which, in fact, Galileo did not discover). This was no academic debate; it struck at the center of the Aristotelean establishment, and was nothing less than an attempt to overthrow the entirety of medieval scholasticism.

    Even still today Giacomo Zabarella is considered the premier representative of 16th century Italian Aristoteleanism. After 1564, he became both the Chair in Logic and the Chair in Natural Philosophy at the University of Padua. A rigid Aristotelean, Zabarella, nevertheless also insisted on the reality of causality, and said that it is the mind of the scientist which carries out the necessary proofs. He was opposed to using mathematical proofs as a way of arriving at truth. Cesare Cremonini, who succeeded to the Chair of Natural Philosophy in 1591, was, more so than Zabarella, an avowed materialist, and like Pompanazzi before him, he denied the immortality of the soul. Nevertheless, he became Galileo’s leading critic at the University of Padua. In 1604 Cremonini was the foremost opponent of Galileo’s views on the “New Star, and he was quoted by a contemporary source at the time as saying, “the mathematicians adduce the expressed view that it is bad judgment to forsake the senses and go searching for reason” (i.e. cause). In his 1632 The Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems, Galileo ridicules Cremonini, portraying him as the buffoonish figure “Simplicio.”

    This attack on the Aristotelean establishment was the premier task assigned to Galileo by Sarpi. Although, today, many uninformed people somehow think that Galileo was a champion of Copernicanism, Galileo, in fact was one of the last astronomers of the period to endorse helio-centrism, which he did not do until the publication of his 1632 Dialogue. From his arrival in Padua in 1592, up until that much later date, all of Galileo’s efforts were concentrated on overthrowing Aristotelean scholasticism on behalf of Sarpi’s new empiricism.


    Sarpi's plan to monopolize the scientific discrediting of Aristotle took on a new urgency with the publication, in 1597, of Johannes Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum.4 Upon the completion of this work, Kepler had sent four copies of the book to Padua, one of which ended up in the hands of Galileo, who passed it on to Sarpi. Galileo subsequently wrote to Kepler, and several short notes passed between them.5 In September, 1597, Kepler sent a longer letter to Galileo suggesting a collaboration between the two. Following this exchange of letters Galileo cut off all communication with Kepler. Outside of Italy, the publication of the Mysterium had a powerful impact on the scientific community and led to Kepler’s appointment as Imperial Mathematician to the German Emperor in 1601. In Venice, it led to Sarpi's 1603-1604 unleashing of the Galileo Project. Later, after the publication of Kepler’s Astronomia Nova (New Astronomy) in 1609, Sarpi again responded, this time with the Venetian telescope demonstrations, and the accelerated campaign to sell Galileo as the premier authority on astronomy.

    For the layman it may seem difficult to comprehend the threat which Kepler's work posed to Sarpi's designs. But bear in mind: Kepler was a proclaimed self-conscious follower of the scientific method of Nicholas of Cusa.6 Not only was his methodology directly contrary to Sarpi's empiricism, it represented an axiomatically different view of the human mind, of human nature itself. For the empiricists, man is only capable of taking in sensory data, and adding, subtracting and manipulating that data in linear ways to arrive at what they call “verifiable” results. This also holds true for Sarpi's views on mathematics. Anyone who accepts that approach, will ultimately be led to the unenviable conclusion that a super-computer is, in fact, equal, or superior, to the human mind. For Cusa and Kepler, science begins where linear analysis breaks down, where the power of human hypothesis leads to the discovery, not of more sensory data, but to true discovery of the universal principles which underlie the ordering of the universe.

    Recently, a team of young scientists from the LaRouche Youth Movement has created a website which contains the most exhaustive examination of Kepler's' work that has ever been done by anyone since Kepler's death. For those who wish to examine these matters in more depth, I encourage you to visit it.7

    After the abortive Kepler-Galileo correspondence of 1597, the Venetians broke off all communication with Kepler for 13 years. During this period, they knew that they could not openly attack him due to his position and widespread prestige. Then, after Galileo's demonstration of the telescope and the publication of his Sidereus Nuncias, another attempt was made to bring Kepler under Venetian control. In 1610 Galileo sent a long letter to Kepler, soliciting Kepler’s endorsement. Kepler responded with the publication of Dissertatio cum Nuncio Sidereo, which essentially challenged Galileo to adopt Kepler's scientific method. Following the publication of the Dissertatio no further communication between Kepler and Galileo occurred.

    Having failed to co-opt or discredit Kepler, Sarpi next moved to destroy him. In 1618 Galileo publicly assailed Kepler’s theory on the origin of comets (Kepler was right, and Galileo was wrong), and, following the publication of Kepler's Harmonices Mundi (Harmony of the Worlds), Galileo, in 1624, denounced Kepler as a heretic, a very serious charge, actually a not so veiled death threat. It was also during this period, in 1620, that Henry Wotton, the notorious British ally of Sarpi, traveled to Vienna, met with Kepler, and urged him to move to England. Kepler declined this offer to join the stable of Venetian agents in London. Galileo continued his public attacks, ridiculing Kepler’s discovery of the elliptical planetary orbits, and dismissing as a "useless fiction" Kepler’s idea that the gravitational force of the moon caused the tides. In both instances, of course, Galileo was wrong. In his 1632 The Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems, Galileo completely ignores Kepler, the universally recognized scientific genius of his age, while calling the ancient fraud Ptolemy one of greatest minds ever to have philosophized about the structure of the universe.

The True Tale of the Telescope8

    If one had to pick the single event which transformed Galileo into an international celebrity, it was his demonstration of the telescope in 1609. In August of that year, Paolo Sarpi, acting as the official Consultore of the Venetian Government, arranged for Galileo Galilei to perform two demonstrations of his telescope, a public demonstration from the tower of St. Mark, and a second, private demonstration for the Doge and the full Venetian Senate. It was this event, combined with the publication of Sidereus Nuncius (Starry Messenger) the following year, which established Galileo as the standard-bearer for the overthrow of Aristotelean orthodoxy. He was to hold this position for more than 30 years, and, when he was placed on trial for heresy by the Inquisition in 1633, he was virtually immortalized as a champion of scientific truth.

    During those years, all the way up to his death in 1642, Galileo repeatedly claimed that he was the first to use the telescope, the first to observe the moons of Jupiter, and the first to observe the “New Star” in 1604. In his collected works, Opere, Galileo goes so far as to say that it was he, and he alone, who was the sole inventor of the telescope. None of these claims are true.

    Experiments on magnification, using the concave/convex lens method employed by Galileo, had been going on for several centuries before Galileo, including in the manufacture of eyeglasses, “spyglasses,” and other simple devices. Almost 100 years before Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci had designed a telescope of the convex/concave lens type, as described in the Codex Atlanticus. All of this was so well known at the time, that in the years following 1609, many Italian scholars, including Girolamo Fracastoro and Giovanibaptista Della Porta denounced Galileo’s telescope as “not an invention,” claiming that the use of optical “glasses,” utilizing convex and concave lenses was already widely known.

    As to the actual “Galileo telescope” itself, the evidence is overwhelming and conclusive that that specific device was not invented by Galileo at all, but rather was invented in the Netherlands in the autumn of 1608. Three Dutchmen claimed authorship: Hans Lipperhay applied for a patent on a telescope to the States General on Oct. 2, 1608; Jacob Metius likewise applied for a patent of a similar instrument on Oct. 15, 1608; Sacharias Janssen never applied for a patent, but he claimed to have invented the telescope before either Lipperhay or Metius, and years later, writing in his private journal, the Dutch mathematician Isaac Beeckman reports that Janssen’s son had told him that his father had built a telescope in 1604, based on the concave/convex lens model.

    Whoever was first among the three Dutch inventors, it is clear that all three individuals were in possession of a “Galileo-type” telescope by Nov. 1, 1608, long before Galileo had even heard of it.

    Additionally, the Englishman Thomas Digges carried out astronomical observations in the late 16th century, employing the use of a “spyglass,” very similar to the later Dutch instruments, and in the autumn of 1608, the astronomer Simon Marius built a telescope, based on reports he had received of the Dutch model.

    To fully comprehend the massive fraud that was perpetrated in the promotion of Galileo's telescope “discoveries,” consider the following chronology:

    Actually, Galileo appears to have had a lot of trouble building the telescope. During July and August of of 1609, Sarpi sent a number of inquiries to Galileo, asking him what was taking so long, particularly given the fact that, for all practical purposes, he had been given rudimentary blueprints for the device. On top of this, Galileo actually had a huge advantage, in that the Italian glass-making industry, which supplied the material for his lenses, was the most advanced in Europe.

    Unlike the copier Galileo, an actual invention came from Kepler himself. Upon receiving a model of the “Galileo telescope” in early 1610, Kepler immediately realized a fundamental design flaw, and proceeded to actually invent his own original telescope, known as the Kepler or “Astronomical” telescope, utilizing – for the first time – 2 convex lenses, rather than the Dutch model of a concave lens and a convex lens. In 1611 Kepler published Dioptrice, an in depth study of lenses and images, in which he described his new invention. Kepler’s telescope was far superior and eventually replaced the Galileo telescope in use throughout Europe.

Marketing the Galileo Commodity

    Before proceeding to how the myth of Galileo was promulgated throughout Europe, it is first essential – if shocking to some – to grasp the reality that Galileo Galilei was not a scientist. He was a commodity, one whom Sarpi invented and then marketed, in a manner that would have made the slickest 1960's New York ad-man green with envy. This was truly one of the most outrageous con-jobs in all of history.

    In 1592 Galileo moved to Padua from Pisa, where he had been an undistinguished professor and mathematician. Upon his arrival in Padua he was taken under the wing of a powerful group of Venetian aristocrats, led by Giovanni Francesco Sagredo and Nicolo Contarini. Members of Paolo Sarpi’s inner circle, these individuals introduced Galileo into the Morosini and Nave d’Oro ridotti. The wealthy Sagredo became the personal patron of the young Pisan professor, inviting him to stay at his palatial villa, built on top of Roman ruins on the banks of the Brenta canal. This villa, which was notorious in its day as the scene of wild parties, became Galileo’s second home.

    Sarpi deployed members of his clique to control and guide Galileo’s work, and in some cases provide him with inventions or theories which would then be publicized under Galileo’s name. These latter included the first modern thermometer (Sagredo's invention); Galileo’s “theory of tides” (developed by de Dominis, and given to Galileo, it was egregiously wrong anyway); and much of his reputed work on mechanics and weights (provided by Santorio Santorio and Filippo Salviati). The idea was to build up the image of Galileo as the hero of the “New Science.”

    When Sarpi’s agents were unable to provide Galileo with new discoveries which he could claim as his own, they simply stole them from others, frequently attacking the original discoverer as a plagiarist (a method to be employed a century later against Leibniz’s authorship of the calculus). The event which is often pointed to as the opening salvo of Galileo’s assault on Aristoteleanism, was his 1604 announcement that he had discovered a “New Star” (actually a super-nova). The only problem is that the New Star was discovered weeks earlier by the astronomer Simon Marius.9 Upon making the discovery, Marius had dispatched his student Baldassare Capra to Padua. Capra passed the news of the discovery to Paolo Sarpi, who then personally gave it to Galileo, who subsequently proclaimed the discovery to be his own.

    Later, in 1607, this same Baldassare Capra became involved in another fight with Galileo, when Capra claimed the invention of the Geometer’s Compass in his work Usus et Fabrica Circini. Galileo accused Capra of plagiarism, and on orders from the Giovani-controlled Venetian Senate, all 450 copies of Capra’s book were seized and burned. During this controversy, it was Sarpi who personally mediated the dispute on behalf of the Venetian government, and judged in favor of Galileo.

    Simon Marius had a second, more serious run-in with Galileo in 1610, when Marius became the first astronomer in Europe to observe the moons of Jupiter. When Galileo proclaimed the discovery as his own, Marius publicly attacked him. The Sarpi group launched a massive campaign against Marius accusing him of plagiarism, and for the next 3 centuries historians dutifully gave credit to Galileo for the discovery. However, in 1900, an international scientific conference re-examined the Galileo/Marius dispute. They determined that Marius had been falsely accused, and concluded that he was the true discoverer of Jupiter’s moons.

    The same plagiarism gambit was used yet again in 1612, when the Bavarian astronomer Christopher Scheiner reported that he had seen spots on the sun, using a telescope of Kepler's design. Almost immediately Galileo announced that he had been observing sun-spots for over a year, and so had priority of discovery, a surprising claim, since Galileo had never previously mentioned sun-spots.

    To the extent Galileo actually had a “scientific method” at all, it was taken entirely from Sarpi, as can be seen in Galileo's fawning praise, “No one in Europe, it can be said without exaggeration, surpasses Master Paolo Sarpi in the knowledge of the science of mathematics.” In addition, it is clear that a key to the Venetian control of Galileo was through the purse string. His original move from Pisa to Padua was motivated by a tripling of his salary. Later he was the beneficiary of Sagredo's “favors,” and in 1623, after Galileo had left Venice, and was in difficult circumstances, Sarpi personally arranged for him to receive a permanent Venetian pension, keeping him on a lifelong financial string. In the 1630s Sarpi’s secretary, Fulgenzio Micanzio paid extra money to Galileo for the writing of both The Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems and The Discourses on Two New Sciences. The 1638 Discourses was then smuggled out of Italy by Micanzio, who arranged for it to be published in Leyden. By then the marketing of Galileo was in full swing, and salons promoting the new science of empiricism were flourishing in Paris, Rome, the Netherlands, and other locations.

    Galileo’s real epitaph can be best expressed in his own words: “What has philosophy got to do with measuring anything?”

The Mersenne Circle

    Following the publication of Sidereus Nuncius in 1610, there was a proliferation of “scientific” groups throughout Europe, all aimed at promoting the new science of empiricism, and all taking their cue from the developments in Venice. Among the most important of these groups were the Academia dei Lincei in Rome, the Oxford Philosophical Club (a.k.a. the Invisible College), the forerunner of the British Royal Society, in England, and the Academia Parisiensis, the so-called Mersenne Circle, based in Paris.

    The Mersenne Circle came into existence in 1623, and lasted for about 25 years, when, after the death of Mersenne, Pierre Gassendi organized a successor group, the Acadamie Montmor, which lasted about another 20 years. The Mersenne Circle was unquestionably the most important group in Europe in promoting Galileo and spreading the new science of empiricism. It was also at the Mersenne Circle that the direct transition was made from Galileo to Descartes.

    The founder of the Circle, the ordained priest Marin Mersenne, began as a staunch defender of Aristotelean scholasticism, and had gone so far as to issue a public attack on Galileo in the early 1620s. By the 1630s, however, Mersenne had been won over. He became Galileo’s foremost champion in all northern Europe, and it was Mersenne who was responsible for the translation and publication of Galileo’s works in France. Mersenne is perhaps best known today for his 1636 work L’harmonie Universelle, an attempt to apply Sarpi's empirical methods to music.10 Mersenne was also the key Parisian contact of Rene Descartes. He met Descartes in 1623, and by no later than 1630 he was Descartes’ chief partisan in Paris. When Descartes finished his Meditations, the first person he sent it to was Mersenne, who circulated it in transcript form, showing it to Hobbes and other members of the Circle.

    At the beginning the Circle was not a homogeneous group. The key leaders, Mersenne, Pierre Gassendi, Isaac Beeckman, Fabri Peiresc, and Thomas Hobbes were all in the empiricist camp. However, other individuals like Blaise Pascal, Pierre Fermat, and Christian Huygens were also sometimes participants. As was the case of Galileo’s contacts with Kepler, one of the purposes of the Circle was to recruit, co-opt, or neutralize the opponents of empiricism. The activity of the Circle centered on a sustained, relentless attack on established Aristoteleanism. Rene Descartes participated in the Circle by no later than 1625, and the Circle was crucial in spreading Descartes’ influence. The political exile Hugo Grotius also attended meetings.

    Other than Mersenne, the two key leaders of the Circle were Gassendi and Beeckman. A professor of mathematics at the College Royal, Gassendi publicly broke with Aristoteleanism in 1624 with the publication of his Exercitationes Paradoxicae. An extreme materialist, Gassendi stated that all we know is from the senses, that our access to knowledge is limited to the appearance of what we know, and that universals are fictions. He is known for his “atomist matter theory,” and he agreed with Descartes that space and time are uniformly and infinitely extended.

    Gassendi’s closest friend was Nicolas-Claude Fabri de Peiresc. Peiresc studied for three years at Padua University, knew both Sarpi and Galileo personally, and became a public supporter of Galileo after the publication of Sidereus Nuncius in 1610. Gassendi was also very close to Thomas Hobbes, and by the mid-1600s many of Gassendi’s works were translated and published in England, where they were studied by Locke, Boyle, and Newton.

    The 17th century spread of empiricism was not an academic “natural phenomenon.” After 1610 it was a centrally deployed campaign, directed from Venice. The key colony was the Paris-Netherlands axis defined by the Mersenne-Gassendi network, with a second group in England centered around Francis Bacon. The Paris group was the center of support for Galileo, and its influence radiated throughout the continent. It was also the launching pad for Descartes. The coordination of the Venice-Paris-Netherlands triangle was tight. Leading members of the circle communicated directly with Micanzio, and Galileo in Italy (earlier, some had been in touch with Sarpi before his death in 1623). Beeckman and Descartes were in continual communication with Mersenne, and traveled to Paris for personal consultation, and similarly, Mersenne, Gassendi, and other Parisians made regular pilgrimages to the Netherlands.

    At the time of Galileo’s trial before the inquisition in 1633, it was the Mersenne Circle that rushed to his defense. Gassendi wrote letters of support for Galileo to use in his defense at the trial, and, after the guilty verdict, members of the Circle organized an attempt to bring Galileo out of Italy and obtain political asylum for him in the Netherlands. The leader of this effort was Hugo Grotius, with Mersenne acting as the go-between with Galileo. Their agent in the Netherlands was Martinus Hortensius, an Amsterdam professor who had played a key role in circulating Galileo’s works in the Netherlands. Hortensius also published an attack on Kepler, saying that astronomy should be based on observation and mathematical demonstration, not on speculation. He corresponded with both Galileo and Descartes, and in reward for faithful efforts, in 1637, Galileo sent him his original 1610 telescope.

    Eventually, Galileo made the decision to stay in Italy. Some say the reason was failing health, others claim it was from fear of the Inquisition. Perhaps he just didn’t want to give up his regular paychecks from Micanzio. Whatever the reason, he remained under arrest, and his “martyrdom” was used to weave the web of empiricism across Europe.


    The Frenchman Rene Descartes lived most of his adult life in the Netherlands, and it was there he was recruited by the mathematician Isaac Beeckman. Beeckman's influence on Descartes must have been profound; Descartes describes him as his teacher in mathematics and mechanics, and it was Beeckman who introduced him to Mersenne, the association which made Descartes as a major scientific figure. During all of his years in the Netherlands, Descartes was under the protection of the House of Orange, but it was not until after his death in 1650, particularly during the “True Freedom” period of the DeWitt brothers, that Descartes' Cartesianism became truly hegemonic in the Netherlands.

    Descartes’s mathematical work was a continuation of the empiricist methods of Sarpi and Galileo. Descartes universe was one of linear extension into an infinitely extended void, a universe without singularities, and without human creativity.

    In 1632, the Athenaeum, an Amsterdam school for the sons of the new Dutch elite, was established, and it was there that Cartesianism made its first inroads into Dutch academic life. Later, in 1694, supporters of Descartes at the Athenaeum published the first complete edition of his works.

    From the Athenium, the Descartes' influence spread to the universities. The first university to officially teach Descartes’ philosophy was the University of Utrecht, in 1635. In 1653 a Cartesian study group was established at the University of Leyden, based on the idea that all physical processes can be defined in mathematical terms. At Leyden, Cartesianism quickly dominated the medical and biological faculty.

    In 1659 Johann DeWitt, the leader of Holland, translated and published Descartes’ La Geometric, with an original appendix written by himself.

    By the 1670s the Cartesians were hegemonic at all the Dutch universities.11

The Cavendish Family & England

    In examining the subversion of England by the agents of Paolo Sarpi – including Hobbes, Bacon, Wotton, and Petty – it is shocking, at first, to find the name Cavendish pop up again and again and again. What complicates matters even further, is that there are not one or two, but five William Cavendishes who were involved in the Venetian takeover of England. This role of the Cavendishes begins with Sarpi himself and continues all the way into the 18th century. Every step of the way, they were to play an important role in the creation of the Anglo-Dutch Empire.

    To sort some of this out, I present here brief profiles of the Five Williams, in chronological order:

1) William Cavendish, First Earl of Devonshire (1552-1626) - the individual who financially backed Thomas Hobbes from 1610 to 1626, and employed Hobbes in 1610 to tutor his son.

2) William Cavendish, Second Earl of Devonshire (1590-1628) - the William who, in 1614, accompanied Hobbes on a trip to Venice where they both met with Paolo Sarpi. Following this trip Cavendish maintained a 13 year correspondence with Sarpi and Micanzio. This was the Cavendish who initiated the correspondence between Sarpi and Francis Bacon in 1616. He was also a founding Director of the Virginia Company, and remained close to Hobbes his entire life.

3) William Cavendish, First Duke of Newcastle (1592-1676) - nephew of the First Earl of Devonshire and first cousin of the Second Earl. In 1611 he traveled with Henry Wotton – Sarpi's supporter during the Interdict crisis – to Savoy, when Wotton was named the new English ambassador there. This William organized the informal “Welbeck Academy” at his estate in England, which became the center for Galileo supporters in England, with members translating many of Galileo’s works into English, including the the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, in 1636. Newcastle and other members of his Academy, then played an important role in organizing the Mersenne Circle in Paris, and Newcastle, himself, became an early patron of Mersenne.12 In 1634 Newcastle sent Hobbes to Paris to work with Mersenne. Later, Newcastle spent three years in Paris, from 1645 to 1648 , where he played an important role in supporting the activities of the Mersenne group, including personal financial sponsorship of Hobbes, Gassendi, and Descartes. Late in life he became a patron and financial backer of William Petty.

4) William Cavendish, Third Earl of Devonshire (1617-1684) - son of the Second Earl of Devonshire, this William also became a pupil of Hobbes for 7 years in Paris, from 1631-1638, during Hobbes time with the Mersenne Circle. In 1635 Hobbes and Devonshire traveled to Italy and met with Galileo.

5) William Cavendish, First Duke of Devonshire (1640-1707) - son of the Third Earl of Devonshire. A Whig leader, he was one of the “Immortal Seven” who signed the Invitation to William in 1688, asking William of Orange to invade England. This William was also Abraham De Moivre’s first political sponsor in England. A member of the Royal Society, it was William who first gave De Moivre a copy of Newton’s Principia Mathematica. Both William’s son James, and his nephew Charles (also both later members of the Royal Society) were pupils of De Moivre.

    One thing that is clear from looking at this snapshot of the “5 Williams,” is that Thomas Hobbes was a virtual Golem of the Cavendish family. He was protected and financed by the Devonshire branch from 1610-1628, then again from 1631 to 1638, and then picked up by the Newcastle branch in the 1640s (this is the period when he wrote both The Leviathan and De Cive). In 1679 Hobbes died while residing at the Cavendish family estate in England.

    By no later than 1621, the key nexus of the Venetian faction in England was Sarpi (and later Micanzio)-Cavendish-Bacon-Hobbes, and it is clear that this was a breathing, living network, whose activities were closely co-ordinated. Sarpi was corresponding with both Cavendish and Bacon. Hobbes was serving as the personal secretary to Bacon, and translating his works into Latin, while Micanzio was translating them into Italian and publishing them in Venice. Bacon’s influence only grew in the years following his death, leading into the founding of the Oxford Group, and ultimately the Royal Society by his disciples.

    The end product of all this was, of course, Isaac Newton, who began by studying Gassendi, moved on to Descartes, and ultimately arrived at Bacon. A true end product of a Sarpi curriculum. And when the publication of Newton's works, including his Principia Mathematica, failed to have the intended impact, it was Venice once again that stepped in to help. The 1715-1718 visit of Venetian master-spy Antonio Conti to England resulted in the “creation” of Newton as the master scientist, just as Sarpi had “created” Galileo a hundred years earlier. Conti's subsequent deployment of Newton against Leibniz shouldn't have shocked anyone. It was just Sarpi using Galileo against Kepler, all over again.

1 Laputa's President Bush, by Lyndon H. LaRouche Jr., Executive Intelligence Review, Vol. 29, No. 18, May 10, 2002

2 See Appendix 1

3 Weighing the Soul, Scientific Discovery from the Brilliant to the Bizarre, by Len Fisher

4 For the significance of Kepler, please see Music & Statecraft, How Space Is Organized, by Lyndon H. LaRouche, Jr.

5 Galileo and Kepler: Their First Two Contacts, by Edward Rosen, Isis, Vol. 57, No. 2

6 Kepler acknowledged his debt to Cusa in his first published work

7 Please see

8 See The Invention of the Telescope, by Albert Van Helden, Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 67, No. 4 & Galileo's First Telescopes at Padua and Venice, by Stillman Drake, Isis, Vol. 50, No. 3

9 Was Simon Mayr Galileo's "Ancient Adversary" in 1607?, by Stillman Drake, Isis, Vol. 67, No. 3.

10 In addition to Mersenne, one of the leaders of the empiricist attacks on music was Galileo's father, Vincenzo Galilei. Together with his associates in the Florentine Camerata, Galilei carried out extensive “experimental” work on acoustics, vibrating strings, and columns of air, and promoted his own version of “equal-temperament.” Others involved in this attack on Renaissance music included Rene Descartes, who published, with the aid of Isaac Beeckman, Compendium Musicae, and the Venetian G.B. Benedetti, In his Harmony of the World, Kepler attacked this empiricist approach to music, calling Galilei’s mathematical approach “clever tempering,” but adding, “for theorizing and even more for investigating the nature of melody, I consider it ruinous.” (Book 3, Chapter 8)

11 The Calvinist Copernicans: The Reception of the New Astronomy in the Dutch Republic, by Rienk Vermij, Amsterdam: Edita KNAW

12 Thomas Hobbes and the Duke of Newcastle: A Study in the Mutuality of Patronage before the Establishment of the Royal Society, by Lisa T. Sarasohn