The vaccum of Pascal versus the ether of Noël: an experimental controversy?

Fumikazu Saito


The difficult issue concerning the existence of vaccum in nature gained momentum from the 17th century onwards due to the diffusion of Torricelli’s barometric test in France. Inspired on it, Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) performed his owned experiences, published as Expériences nouvelles touchant le vide (1647). These “new experiences” elicited a hot debate between him and the Jesuit Étienne Noël (1581-1659). Immediately after publication, Noël sent two letters to Pascal and published a short writing, Le plein du vide, where he contested the conclusions stated by Pascal and defended the idea that nature is plena. This paper aims to show that these different attitudes, adopted by Noël and Pascal, relate to two divergent theoretical conceptions, implied in two different notions concerning experience.

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