Experiment and observation in seventeenth-century meteorology and natural philosophy. A comparative study of Descartes's 'Météores' and Fromondus's 'Meteorologicorum libri sex'

Start - End 
2010 - 2014 (completed)
Department of Philosophy and moral sciences
Research Focus 
Additional tags 
History of science



The project was devoted to a comparative study of Fromondus’ and Descartes’ work on meteorology. It undertook a broad historiographical study of the status of meteorology in the early modern period, which providess the background to engage in a more detailed study of Fromondus and Descartes.

A narrative on the history of meteorology was developed, starting from the late middle ages and continuing up until Fromondus and Descartes. It has been shown that meteorology, as it was understood until Descartes, was a science concerned with imperfect mixtures as a special kind of body, and it was thus delimited by ontological principles. Once Descartes rejects the Aristotelian theory of mixtures, the subject of meteorology becomes delimited geographically, as phenomena of the lower atmosphere. Therefore, the project has developed an investigation into the constitution and the demise of meteorology as an ontological science of mixtures.

The following themes have been treated in detail: the conception of meteorology as a science in the Aristotelian tradition: the problem of the object of science in fourteenth-century meteorology (Themon Judaeus and Pseudo-Scotus); the interpretations offered by the Latin Aristotelian tradition to Aristotle’s notion of mixture (Avicenna, Averroes, Thomas Aquinas) and Duns Scotus’s rejection of the doctrine; the place of meteorology in the Jesuit course of physics and the generation and corruption of mixtures (Péter Pázmány); seventeenth-century Aristotelian meteorology: the shape of the field as seen through Libertus Fromondus, the definition and causes of the meteors and his defence of the Aristotelian conceptual framework against attacks from various Renaissance novatores; Descartes’s treatise on The Meteors as directed against the Aristotelian theory of mixtures and his rejection of physical hylomorphism.



Phd Student(s)



Sven Dupré

Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin