Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



If you have taught a number theory course or even watched the mathematical news, you know that occasionally a new (and enormous) “Mersenne prime” is discovered. Those who have introduced students to the prehistory of calculus may know of a certain Marin Mersenne as the interlocutor who drew Fermat and Descartes (and others) out to discuss their methods of tangents (and more). But who was Mersenne, and what did he actually do? This presentation will give an overview of his times, his role in the history of science, and his own writings. We’ll especially look into why a monk from an order devoted to being the least of all delved so deeply into (among other things) exploratory mathematics, practical acoustics, and defeating freethinkers.



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