Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz

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Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz
Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz.jpg
Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz
Born1606 (1606)
Died1682 (1683) (aged 76)
OccupationSpanish mathematician and theologian

Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz (Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz, 23 May 1606 in Madrid — 7 or 8 September 1682 in Vigevano) was a Spanish Catholic scholastic philosopher, ecclesiastic, mathematician and writer. He is believed to be a great-grandson of Jan Popel z Lobkowicz.


He was a precocious child, early delving into serious problems in mathematics and even publishing astronomical tables at the age of ten. After receiving a superficial education at college, where his unusual ability brought rapid advancement, this prodigy turned his attention to the Asiatic languages, especially Chinese. He was received into the Cistercian Order at the monastery of La Espina, in the diocese of Palencia, and after ordination entered upon a varied and brilliant career.

His sermons attracted the favorable attention of the Infante Ferdinand, Governor of the Low Countries, while he was attached to the monastery of Dunes in Flanders, and in 1638 he was honored with the degree of Doctor of Theology by the University of Leuven. When he was obliged to leave the Electorate of the Palatinate, Philip IV of Spain made him his envoy to the court of Emperor Ferdinand III. He was in turn Abbot of Melrose, Scotland (Scotland), Abbot-Superior of the Benedictines of Vienna, and Grand-Vicar to the Archbishop of Prague.

In 1648, when the Swedes attacked Prague, he armed and led a band of ecclesiastics who did yeoman service in the defence of the city. His bravery on this occasion merited for him a collar of gold from the emperor. Soon after he became Bishop of Satrianum, then Campagna, and at his death was Bishop of Vigevano.

Caramuel was in active epistolary relations with the most famous scholars of the time:[1] the philosophers René Descartes and Pierre Gassendi; the Jesuit polymath Athanasius Kircher; the Czech Capuchin friar and astronomer Anton Maria Schyrleus of Rheita, the Bohemian doctor Jan Marek Marci, Pope Alexander VII (Fabio Chigi), who was a great admirer of his work; the Belgian astronomer Godefroy Wendelin, the theologians Franciscus Bonae Spei and Antonino Diana, Giovanni Battista Hodierna, Johannes Hevelius, Valerianus Magnus, Juan Eusebio Nieremberg and many others.


Hatching table printed by Lobkowitz in 1636
The facade of the Vigevano Cathedral (in Italy) was designed and built by Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz

His books are even more numerous than his titles and his varied achievements; for, according to Jean-Noël Paquot, he published no fewer than 262 works on grammar, poetry, oratory, mathematics, astronomy, architecture, physics, politics, canon law, logic, metaphysics, theology and asceticism. He loved to defend novel theories, and in Theologia moralis ad prima atque clarissima principia reducta (Leuven, 1643) tried to solve theological problems by mathematical rules. He was a leading exponent of probabilism and his permissive moral opinions were criticized in Pascal's Provincial Letters and gained for him from Alphonsus Liguori the title of "Prince of the Laxists".

His mathematical work centred on combinatorics and he was one of the early writers on probability, republishing Huygens's work on dice with helpful explanations.[2] Caramuel's Mathesis biceps presents some original contributions to the field of mathematics: he proposed a new method of approximation for trisecting an angle and proposed a form of logarithm that prefigure cologarithms, although he was not understood by his contemporaries.[3] Caramuel was also the first mathematician who made a reasoned study on non-decimal counts, thus making a significant contribution to the development of the binary numeral system.[1]

The Cardinal was also responsible for the design of the facade of the Vigevano Cathedral.

Printed Works[edit]

Mathesis nova, 1670
  • Philippus Prudens, Antwerp, 1639.
  • Respuesta al Manifiesto del Reyno de Portugal, Antwerp, 1641.
  • Rationalis et realis philosophia, Leuven, 1642.
  • Theologia moralis fundamentalis, praeterintentionalis, decalogica, sacramentalis, canonica, regularis, civilis, militaris, Frankfurt, 1652–1653.
  • Theologia rationalis, Frankfurt, 1654–1655.
  • Theologia moralis fundamentalis, editio secunda, Rome, 1656.
  • Primus calamus ob oculos ponens metametricam, quae variis currentium, recurrentium, adscendentium, descendentium, nec-non circumvolantium versuum ductibus, aut aeri incisos, aut buxo insculptos, aut plumbo infusos, multiformes labyrinthos exponat, Rome, 1663.
  • Mathesis biceps, vetus et nova, Campagna - Lyons, 1670.
  • Arquitectura civil recta y oblicua..., Vigevano, C. Corrado, 1678[-1679].
  • Leptotatos, latine subtilissimus, Vigevano 1681 (Spanish translation: Leptotatos [Neuva lengua sutilisima] Metalogica, Pamplona: Eunsa, 2008


  1. ^ a b Ares, J., Lara, J., Lizcano, D. et al. Who Discovered the Binary System and Arithmetic? Did Leibniz Plagiarize Caramuel?, Sci. Eng. Ethics (2018) 24: 173-188. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11948-017-9890-6
  2. ^ The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability before Pascal, James Franklin, JHU Press, 2015, [1]
  3. ^ Juan Vernet, Dictionary of Scientific Biography [1971], cited in Jens Høyrup, Barocco e scienza secentesca: un legame inesistente?, published in Analecta Romana Instituti Danici, 25 (1997), 141-172.


  • J. Franklin, The Science of Conjecture: Evidence and Probability Before Pascal, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001, 88-94.
  • J. Fleming, Defending Probabilism: The Moral Theology of Juan Caramuel, Washington DC: Georgetown University Press, 2006.
  • O'Neil, Leo (1908). Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz, article from the Catholic Encyclopedia

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

  • Yanez Neira, Masolivier, Romereo, de Pascual, Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz, in: Cistercium 262 (2014), p. 248-266.

Further reading[edit]

  • D. Pastine, Juan Caramuel : Probabilismo ed Enciclopedia, Florence, La Nuova Italia, 1975.
  • D. Pastine, "Dello scetticismo e del probabilismo all'operatività : Juan Caramuel", Rivista critica di storia della filosofia 30 (1975), p. 411-419.
  • P. Bellazi, Juan Caramuel, Vigevano, Editrice Opera Diocesana - Buona Stampa, 1982.
  • J. Velarde Lombraña, Juan Caramuel. Vida y obra, Oviedo, Pentalfa, 1989.
  • P. Pissavino (ed.), Le meraviglie del probabile. Juan Caramuel (1606–1682). Atti del convegno internazionale di studi, Vigevano 29-31 ottobre 1982, Vigevano, Comune di Vigevano, 1990.
  • U. G. Leinsle (2000), "Maria als Gegenstand der Philosophie. Zu Caramuels 'Philosophia Mariana'", in Den Glauben Verantworten. Bleibende und neue Herausforderungen für die Theologie zur Jahrtausendwende. Festschrift für Heinrich Petri, ed. E. Möde & Th. Schieder, Paderborn-München-Wien-Zürich, Ferdinand Schöningh, 2000, p. 59-66.
  • J. Schmutz, "Juan Caramuel on the Year 2000 : Time and Possible Worlds in Early-Modern Scholasticism" in The Medieval Concept of Time. The Scholastic Debate and Its Reception in Early Modern Philosophy, ed. P. Porro, Leiden-New York-Köln, Brill, 2001, p. 399-434.
  • A. Catalano, "Juan Caramuel Lobkovitz (1606–1682) e la riconquista delle coscienze in Boemia", Römische Historiche Mitteilungen 44 (2002), p. 339-392.
  • J. Fleming, "Juan Caramuel on the Nature of Extrinsic Probability", Studia Moralia 42 (2004), p. 337-360.
  • L. Robledo, "El cuerpo como discurso, retórica, predicación y comunicación non verbal en Caramuel", Criticón 84-85 (2002), p. 145-164.
  • Y. Schwartz, ed. & transl., Ioannes Caramuel Lobkowitz. On Rabbinic Atheism, translated from the Latin with Introduction by M.-J. Dubois, A. Wohlman, Y. Schwartz, Notes to the text by Y. Schwartz, Jerusalem, The Hebrew University Magnes Press, 2005 [in Hebrew].
  • A. Serrai, Phoenix Europae. Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz in prospettiva bibliografica, Milan, Edizioni Sylvestre Bonnard, 2005.
  • H. W. Sullivan, "Fray Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz, O.Cist.: The Prague Years, 1647–1659", in "Corónente tus hazañas". Studies in Honor of John Jay Allen, ed. M. J. McGrath, Newark (DE), Juan de la Cuesta Hispanic Studies, 2005, p. 339-374.
  • P. Dvorák, Jan Caramuel z Lobkovic : Vybrané aspekty formální a aplikované logiky [Juan Caramuel y Lobkovitz: Various Aspects of Formal and Applied Logic], Prague, Oikumene, 2006.
  • J. Schmutz, "Juan Caramuel y Lobkowitz (1606-82)", in Centuriae latinae II. Cent et une figures humanistes de la Renaissance aux Lumières, à la mémoire de Marie-Madeleine de la Garanderie, ed. C. Nativel, Geneva, Droz, 2006, p. 182-202.
  • P. Dvorák, Relational logic in Juan Caramuel in: Mediaeval and Renaissance Logic, Volume 2 (Handbook of the History of Logic) ed. D. M. Gabby, J. Woods, Amsterdam, North-Holland, 2008 pp. 645–666.

See also[edit]

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