Intellectuals who were European icons(16th&17th centuries)

Feb 2019
475
Thrace
What scientists or philosophers were extremely popular throughout Europe in the 16th(especially!!!) and 17th centuries? For example, Leonardo da Vinci. "Leonardo's fame within his own lifetime was such that the King of France carried him away like a trophy, and was claimed to have supported him in his old age and held him in his arms as he died."

I don't want this thread to become an index of the greatest intellectuals of that era. Only name examples who achieved a significant amount of fame, being admired for their genius in many European countries by people of the highest rank. I think Newton would be another example.
 
Jan 2017
1,309
Durham
What scientists or philosophers were extremely popular throughout Europe in the 16th(especially!!!) and 17th centuries? For example, Leonardo da Vinci. "Leonardo's fame within his own lifetime was such that the King of France carried him away like a trophy, and was claimed to have supported him in his old age and held him in his arms as he died."

I don't want this thread to become an index of the greatest intellectuals of that era. Only name examples who achieved a significant amount of fame, being admired for their genius in many European countries by people of the highest rank. I think Newton would be another example.
John Locke. Voltaire was influenced by British Deism, in particular John Locke's works.
 
Jul 2019
592
New Jersey
I would venture a figure whose fame has dropped precipitously, but who is nonetheless one the most important political thinkers in the early modern period: Hugo Grotius (1583 - 1645). A Dutch Protestant (an Arminian in the truest sense of the word), Grotius is the father of modern international law and the first modern writer to use natural law theory as a basis for representative government. He is also credited with the first expostulation of international law, including the concept of international waters. I recall reading a letter of Jefferson's (I don't recall where) in which he states that the greatest influences on his political thought were Locke, Grotius, and Samuel Pufendorf. Grotius was extremely well-known in Protestant circles.
 

Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
4,971
Iowa USA
What scientists or philosophers were extremely popular throughout Europe in the 16th(especially!!!) and 17th centuries? For example, Leonardo da Vinci. "Leonardo's fame within his own lifetime was such that the King of France carried him away like a trophy, and was claimed to have supported him in his old age and held him in his arms as he died."

I don't want this thread to become an index of the greatest intellectuals of that era. Only name examples who achieved a significant amount of fame, being admired for their genius in many European countries by people of the highest rank. I think Newton would be another example.
The thread is about the social setting of the 16th century, not the importance of the thinker?

If so, I can only partially agree with you about Newton. I think Newton's importance to the public grew after his death. England didn't produce great mathematicians for a long time after Newton and his reputation grew as a matter of national pride, as the "cupboard was bare". The analogy to a da Vinci isn't clear to me. Perhaps there is an element to Newton's biography which I am not aware of though.

EDIT: further, it would not be until the nineteenth century that enough of the upper classes had a university education to put the significance of Newton's contributions into any context.
 

Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
4,971
Iowa USA
Feb 2019
475
Thrace
The thread is about the social setting of the 16th century, not the importance of the thinker?

If so, I can only partially agree with you about Newton. I think Newton's importance to the public grew after his death. England didn't produce great mathematicians for a long time after Newton and his reputation grew as a matter of national pride, as the "cupboard was bare". The analogy to a da Vinci isn't clear to me. Perhaps there is an element to Newton's biography which I am not aware of though.

EDIT: further, it would not be until the nineteenth century that enough of the upper classes had a university education to put the significance of Newton's contributions into any context.
I was impressed by Alexander Pope's verse:

“Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.”


If a contemporary poet knew you were the ultimate paradigm shift of scientific history, I thought that was an unusual amount of admiration. Much like in Da Vinci's case. But maybe Newton really wasn't as famous as Da Vinci was.
 
Last edited:

Kotromanic

Ad Honorem
Dec 2011
4,971
Iowa USA
I was Alexander Pope's verse:

“Nature and Nature's laws lay hid in night:
God said, Let Newton be! and all was light.”


If a contemporary poet knew you were the ultimate paradigm shift of scientific history, I thought that was an unusual amount of admiration. Much like in Da Vinci's case. But maybe Newton really wasn't as famous as Da Vinci was.
Well.

Christian Huygens (lived on the continent and not to be celebrated by Pope) was much much closer to actual "enlightenment" (groan, groan) on the other side of the brilliant work of James Clerk Maxwell. (Maxwell was the one whose analysis suggested the speed limit of the universe, that Einstein took to be a postulate.)

I'm more prepared to discuss science than I am literature, though.

Huygens' insights into light were the foundational ones. And Kepler's insights into the solar system were foundation to Newton's Second Law.

Whether their contemporaries knew who Huygens and Kepler were to a lesser degree than Newton's contemporaries knew Newton, probably so.