Maignan, Emanuel

, a religious minim, and one of the greatest philosophers of his age, was born at Toulouse, of an ancient and noble family, July 17, 1601. While he was a child, he discovered an inclination to letters and the sciences, and nothing is said to have had so great an effect | in quieting his infant clamours, as putting some little boot into his hands. He went through his course in the college of Jesuits, and acquitted himself with great diligence in every part of scholarship, both with respect to literary and religious exercises. He was determined to a religious life, by a check given to his vanity when he was learning rhetoric. He had written a poem, in order to dispute the prize of eloquence, and believed the victory was unjustly adjudged to another. This made him resolve to ask the minim’s habit, and having acquitted himself satisfactorily in the trials of his probation-time, he was received upon his taking the vow in 1619, when he was eighteen. He went through his course of philosophy under a professor who was very much attached to the doctrine of Aristotle; and he omitted no opportunity of disputing loudly against all the parts of that philosopher’s scheme, which he suspected of heterodoxy. His preceptor considered this as a good presage; and in a short time discovered, to his great astonishment, that his pupil was very well versed in mathematics, without having had the help of a teacher. In this, like Pascal, he had been his own master but what he says of himself upon this point must be understood with some limitation; namely, that “in his leisure hours of one year from the duties of the choir and school, he discovered of himself as many geometrical theorems and problems, as were to be found in the first six books of Euclid’s Elements.

However freely he examined the opinions of philosophy, instead of shewing himself incredulous in matters of divinity, he implicitly submitted to all the tenets of his church. But, as the arguments of the Peripatetics were commonly applied to illustrate and confirm those tenets, where he did not upon examination find them wellgrounded, he made no scruple to prefer the assistance of Plato to that of Aristotle. His reputation was so great, that it spread beyond the Alps and Pyrenees; and the general of the minims ordered him to Rome, in 1636, to fill a professor’s chair. His capacity in mathematical discoveries and physical experiments soon became known; especially from a dispute which arose between him and father Kircher, about the invention of a catoptrical work. In 1648 his book “De perspectiva horaria” was printed at Rome, at the expence of cardinal Spada, to whom it was dedicated, and greatly esteemed by all the curious. | From Rome he returned to Toulouse, in 1650, and was so well received by his countrymen, that they created him provincial the same year; though he was greatly averse to having his studies interrupted by the cares of any office, and he even refused an invitation from the king in 1660, to settle in Paris, as it was his only wish to pass the remainder of his days in the obscurity of the cloister, where he had put on the habit of the order. Before this, in 1652, he published his “Course of Philosophy,” at Toulouse, in 4 vols. 8vo, in which work, if he did not invent the explanation of physics by the four elements, which some have given to Empedocles, yet he restored it, as Gassendus did the doctrine of the atomists. He published a second edition of it in folio, 1673, and added two treatises to it the one against the vortices of Des Cartes, the other upon the speaking-trumpet invented by our countryman sir Samuel Morland. He also formed a machine, which shewed by its movements that Des Cartes’s supposition, concerning the manner in which the universe was formed, or might have been formed, and concerning the centrifugal force, was entirely without foundation.

Thus this great philosopher and divine passed a life of tranquillity in writing books, making experiments, and reading lectures. He was perpetually consulted by the most eminent philosophers, and was obliged to carry on a very extensive correspondence. Such was the activity of his mind that he is said to have studied even in his sleep; for his very dreams employed him in theorems, and he was frequently awaked by the exquisite pleasure which he felt upon the discovery of a demonstration. The excellence of his manners, and his unspotted virtues, rendered him no less worthy of esteem than his genius and learning. He died at Toulouse Oct. 29, 1676, aged seventy-five. It is said of him, that he composed with great ease, and without any alterations at all. See a book entitled “De vita, moribus, & scriptis R. patris Emanuelis Maignani Tolosatis, ordinis Minimorum, philosophi atque mathematici pracstantissimi, elogium,” written by F. Saguens, and printed at Toulouse in 1697, a work in which are some curious facts, not, however, unmixed with declamatory puerilities. 1


Life as above. Niceion, vol. XXXI. Gen. Dict. —Moreri.