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Nicole Oresme

Philosopher, economist, mathematician, and physicist, one of the principal founders of modern science ; b. in Normandy, in the Diocese of Bayeux ; d. at Lisieux, 11 July, 1382. In 1348 he was a student of theology in Paris ; in 1356 grand master of the Collège de Navarre ; in 1362, already master of theology, canon of Rouen ; dean of the chapter, 28 March, 1364. On 3 August, 1377, he became Bishop of Lisieux. There is a tradition that he was tutor to the dauphin, afterwards Charles V, but this is irreconcilable with the dates of Oresme's life. Charles seems to have had the highest esteem for his character and talents, often followed his counsel, and made him write many works in French for the purpose of developing a taste for learning in the kingdom. At Charles's instance, too, Oresme pronounced a discourse before the papal court at Avignon, denouncing the ecclesiastical disorders of the time. Several of the French and Latin works attributed to him are apocryphal or doubtful. Of his authentic writings, a Christological treatise, "De communicatione idiomatum in Christo", was commonly used as early as the fifteenth century by the theological Faculty of Paris.

But Oresme is best known as an economist, mathematician, and a physicist. His economic views are contained in a Commentary on the Ethics of Aristotle, of which the French version is dated 1370; a commentary on the Politics and the Economics of Aristotle, French edition, 1371; and a "Treatise on Coins ". These three works were written in both Latin and French; all three, especially the last, stamp their author as the precursor of the science of political economy, and reveal his mastery of the French language. The French Commentary on the Ethics of Aristotle was printed in Paris in 1488; that on the Politics and the Economics, in 1489. The treatise on coins, "De origine, natura, jure et mutationibus monetarum", was printed in Paris early in the sixteenth century, also at Lyons in 1675, as an appendix to the "De re monetaria" of Marquardus Freherus, and is included in the "Sacra bibliotheca sanctorum Patrum" of Margaronus de la Bigne IX , (Paris, 1859), p. 159, and in the "Acta publica monetaria" of David Thomas de Hagelstein (Augsburg, 1642). The "Traictié de la première invention des monnoies" in French, was printed at Bruges in 1477.

His most important contributions to mathematics are contained in "Tractatus de figuratione potentiarum et mensurarum difformitatum", still in manuscript. An abridgment of this work printed as "Tractatus de latitudinibus formarum" (1482, 1486, 1505, 1515), has heretofore been the only source for the study of his mathematical ideas. In a quality, or accidental form, such as heat, the Scholastics distinguished the intensio (the degree of heat at each point) and the extensio (e.g., the length of the heated rod): these two terms were often replaced by latitudo and longitudo , and from the time of St. Thomas until far on in the fourteenth century, there was lively debate on the latitudo formæ . For the sake of lucidity, Oresme conceived the idea of employing what we should now call rectangular co-ordinates: in modern terminology, a length proportionate to the longitudo was the abscissa at a given point, and a perpendicular at that point, proportional to the latitudo , was the ordinate. He shows that a geometrical property of such a figure could be regarded as corresponding to a property of the form itself only when this property remains constant while the units measuring the longitudo and latitudo vary. Hence he defines latitudo uniformis as that which is represented by a line parallel to the longitude, and any other latitudo is difformis ; the latitudo uniformiter difformis is represented by a right line inclined to the axis of the longitude. He proves that this definition is equivalent to an algebraical relation in which the longitudes and latitudes of any three points would figure: i.e., he gives the equation of the right line, and thus forestalls Descartes in the invention of analytical geometry. This doctrine he extends to figures of three dimensions.

Besides the longitude and latitude of a form, he considers the mensura , or quantitas , of the form, proportional to the area of the figure representing it. He proves this theorem: A form uniformiter difformis has the same quantity as a form uniformis of the same longitude and having as latitude the mean between the two extreme limits of the first. He then shows that his method of figuring the latitude of forms is applicable to the movement of a point, on condition that the time is taken as longitude and the speed as latitude; quantity is, then, the space covered in a given time. In virtue of this transposition, the theorem of the latitude uniformiter difformis became the law of the space traversed in case of uniformly varied motion: Oresme's demonstration is exactly the same as that which Galileo was to render celebrated in the seventeenth century. Moreover, this law was never forgotten during the interval between Oresme and Galileo : it was taught at Oxford by William Heytesbury and his followers, then, at Paris and in Italy, by all the followers of this school. In the middle of the sixteenth century, long before Galileo, the Dominican Dominic Soto applied the law to the uniformly accelerated falling of heavy bodies and to the uniformly decreasing ascension of projectiles.

Oresme's physical teachings are set forth in two French works, the "Traité de la sphère", twice printed in Paris (first edition without date ; second, 1508), and the "Traité du ciel et du monde", written in 1377 at the request of King Charles V, but never printed. In most of the essential problems of statics and dynamics, Oresme follows the opinions advocated in Paris by his predecessor, Jean Buridan de Béthune , and his contemporary, Albert de Saxe (see Saxe, Albert de). In opposition to the Aristotelean theory of weight, according to which the natural location of heavy bodies is the centre of the world, and that of light bodies the concavity of the moon's orb, he proposes the following: The elements tend to dispose themselves in such manner that, from the centre to the periphery their specific weight diminishes by degrees. He thinks that a similar rule may exist in worlds other than this. This is the doctrine later substituted for the Aristotelean by Copernicus and his followers, such as Giordano Bruno. The latter argued in a manner so similar to Oresme's that it would seem he had read the "Traité du ciel et du monde". But Oresme had a much stronger claim to be regarded as the precursor of Copernicus when one considers what he says of the diurnal motion of the earth, to which he devotes the gloss following chapters xxiv and xxv of the "Traité du ciel et du monde". He begins by establishing that no experiment can decide whether the heavens move form east to west or the earth from west to east; for sensible experience can never establish more than one relative motion. He then shows that the reasons proposed by the physics of Aristotle against the movement of the earth are not valid; he points out, in particular, the principle of the solution of the difficulty drawn from the movement of projectiles. Next he solves the objections based on the texts of Holy Scripture ; in interpreting these passages he lays down rules universally followed by Catholic exegetists of the present day. Finally, he adduces the argument of simplicity for the theory that the earth moves, and not the heavens, and the whole of his argument in favour of the earth's motion is both more explicit and much clearer than that given by Copernicus.

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Niagara University

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Titular see of Bithynia Prima, founded by King Zipoetes. About 264 B.C. his son Nicodemes I ...

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A titular see and metropolis in ancient Epirus. Augustus founded the city (B.C. 31) on a ...

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A city of the Province of Catania, in Sicily situated at a height of about 2800 feet above the ...

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Titular archdiocese in the Province of Cyprus. It is now agreed (Oberhummer' "Aus Cypern" in ...

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(NICOTERENSIS ET TROPEIENSIS) Suffragan diocese of Reggio di Calabria. Nicotera, the ancient ...

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Theologian, b. 1380 in Swabia; d. 13 August, 1438, at Colmar. He entered the Order of Preachers ...

Nieremberg y Otin, Juan Eusebio

Noted theologian and polygraphist, b. of German parents at Madrid, 1595; d. there, 1658. ...

Niessenberger, Hans

An architect of the latter part of the Middle Ages, whose name is mentioned with comparative ...

Niger, Peter George

(NIGRI, German SCHWARTZ) Dominican theologian, preacher and controversialist, b. 1434 at ...

Nigeria

A colony of British East Africa extending from the Gulf of Guinea to Lake Chad (from 4° 30' ...

Nihilism

The term was first used by Turgeniev in his novel, "Fathers and Sons" (in "Russkij Vestnik", Feb., ...

Nihus, Barthold

Convert and controversialist, b. at Holtorf in Hanover, 7 February, 1590 (according to other ...

Nikolaus von Dinkelsbühl

Theologian, b. c. 1360, at Dinkelsbühl; d. 17 March, 1433, at Mariazell in Styria. He ...

Nikon

Patriarch of Moscow (1652-1658; d. 1681). He was of peasant origin, born in the district of ...

Nilles, Nikolaus

Born 21 June, 1828, of a wealthy peasant family of Rippweiler, Luxemburg ; died 31 January, ...

Nilopolis

A titular see and a suffragan of Oxyrynchos, in Egypt. According to Ptolemy (IV, v, 26) the ...

Nilus the Younger

Of Rossano, in Calabria; born in 910, died 27 December, 1005. For a time he was married (or ...

Nilus, Saint

( Neilos ) Nilus the elder, of Sinai (died c. 430), was one of the many disciples and ...

Nimbus

(Latin, related to Nebula, nephele , properly vapour, cloud), in art and archaeology signifies ...

Nimrod

Also N IMROD ( nmrd of uncertain signification, Septuagint Nebród ). The name of ...

Ninian, Saint

(NINIAS, NINUS, DINAN, RINGAN, RINGEN) Bishop and confessor ; date of birth unknown; died ...

Nirschl, Joseph

Theologian and writer, b. at Durchfurth, Lower Bavaria, 24 February, 1823; d. at ...

Nisibis

A titular Archdiocese of Mesopotamia, situated on the Mygdonius at the foot of Mt. Masius. It is ...

Nithard

Frankish historian, son of Angilbert and Bertha, daughter of Charlemagne ; died about 843 or ...

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Noah

[Hebrew Nôah , "rest"; Greek Noah ; Latin Noah ]. The ninth patriarch of the ...

Noah's Ark

The Hebrew name to designate Noah's Ark, the one which occurs again in the history of Moses' ...

Noailles, Louis-Antoine de

Cardinal and bishop, b. at the Château of Teyssiére in Auvergne, France, 27 May, ...

Nobili, Robert de'

Born at Montepulciano, Tuscany, September, 1577; died at Mylapore, India, in 1656. He entered the ...

Noble, Daniel

Physician, b. 14 Jan., 1810; d. at Manchester, 12 Jan, 1885. He was the son of Mary Dewhurst and ...

Nocera

DIOCESE OF NOCERA (NUCERINENSIS) Diocese in Perugia, Umbria, Italy, near the sources of the ...

Nocera dei Pagani

(NUCERIN PAGANORUM; dei Pagani ="of the Pagans") Diocese in Salermo, Italy, at the foot of ...

Nocturns

( Nocturni or Nocturna ). A very old term applied to night Offices. Tertullian speaks of ...

Nogaret, Guillaume de

Born about the middle of the thirteenth century at St. Felix-en-Lauragais; died 1314; he was one ...

Nola

(NOLANA) Diocese ; suffragan of Naples. The city of Nola in the Italian Province of Caserta, ...

Nola, Giovanni Marliano da

Sculptor and architect, b., it is said, of a leather merchant named Giuseppe, at Nola, near ...

Nolasco, Saint Peter

Born at Mas-des-Saintes-Puelles, near Castelnaudary, France, in 1189 (or 1182); died at ...

Nollet, Jean-Antoine

Physicist, b. at Pimpré, Oise, France, 19 November, 1700; d. at Paris, 25 April, 1770. His ...

Nominalism, Realism, Conceptualism

These terms are used to designate the theories that have been proposed as solutions of one of the ...

Nomination

The various methods of designating persons for ecclesiastical benefices or offices have been ...

Nomocanon

(From the Greek nomos , law, and kanon , a rule) A collection of ecclesiastical law, the ...

Non Expedit

("It is not expedient"). Words with which the Holy See enjoined upon Italian Catholics the ...

Non-Jurors

The name given to the Anglican Churchmen who in 1689 refused to take the oath of allegiance to ...

Nonantola

A former Benedictine monastery and prelature nullius , six miles north-east of Modena ...

Nonconformists

A name which, in its most general acceptation, denotes those refusing to conform with the ...

None

This subject will be treated under the following heads: I. Origin of None; II. None from the ...

Nonnotte, Claude-Adrien

Controversialist; b. in Besançon, 29 July, 1711; d. there, 3 September, 1793. At nineteen ...

Nonnus

Nonnus, of Panopolis in Upper Egypt (c. 400), the reputed author of two poems in hexameters; ...

Norbert, Saint

Born at Kanten on the left bank of the Rhine, near Wesel, c. 1080; died at Magdeburg, 6 June, ...

Norbertines

(C ANONICI R EGULARES P RÆMONSTRATENSES ). Founded in 1120 by St. Norbert at ...

Norcia

(NORSIN). A diocese and city in Perugia, Italy, often mentioned in Roman history. In the ...

Norfolk, Catholic Dukes of

(Since the Reformation) Under this title are accounts only of the prominent Catholic Dukes of ...

Noris, Henry

Cardinal, b. at Verona, 29 August, 1631, of English ancestry; d. at Rome, 23 Feb., 1704. He ...

Normandy

An ancient French province, from which five "departments" were formed in 1790: ...

Norris, Sylvester

( Alias SMITH, NEWTON). Controversial writer and English missionary priest ; b. 1570 or ...

Norsemen

The Scandinavians who, in the ninth and tenth centuries, first ravaged the coasts of Western ...

North Carolina

One of the original thirteen States of the United States, is situated between 33° 53' and ...

North Dakota

One of the United States of America , originally included in the Louisiana Purchase. Little was ...

Northampton

(NORTANTONIENSIS) Diocese in England, comprises the Counties of Northampton, Bedford, ...

Northcote, James Spencer

Born at Feniton Court, Devonshire, 26 May, 1821; d. at Stoke-upon-Trent, Staffordshire, 3 March, ...

Northern Territory

(Prefecture Apostolic) The Northern Territory, formerly Alexander Land, is that part of ...

Northmen

The Scandinavians who, in the ninth and tenth centuries, first ravaged the coasts of Western ...

Norton, Christopher

Martyr ; executed at Tyburn, 27 May, 1570. His father was Richard Norton of Norton Conyers, ...

Norway

Norway, comprising the smaller division of the Scandinavian peninsula, is bounded on the east by ...

Norwich, Ancient Diocese of

(NORDOVICUM; NORVICUM). Though this see took its present name only in the eleventh century, ...

Notaries

( Latin notarius ). Persons appointed by competent authority to draw up official or authentic ...

Notburga

Jean-Baptiste Belgian statesman, b. 3 July, 1805, at Messancy, Luxemburg ; d. at Berlin, 16 ...

Notburga, Saint

Patroness of servants and peasants, b. c. 1265 at Rattenberg on the Inn; d. c. 16 September, 1313. ...

Nothomb, Jean-Baptiste

Jean-Baptiste Belgian statesman, b. 3 July, 1805, at Messancy, Luxemburg ; d. at Berlin, 16 ...

Notitia Dignitatum

(Register of Offices). The official handbook of the civil and military officials in the later ...

Notitia Provinciarum et Civitatum Africae

(List of the Provinces and Cities of Africa). A list of the bishops and their sees in the ...

Notitiae Episcopatuum

The name given to official documents that furnish for Eastern countries the list and hierarchical ...

Notker

Among the various monks of St. Gall who bore this name, the following are the most important: ...

Noto

(NETEN). Noto, the ancient Netum and after the Saracen conquest the capital of one of the ...

Notoriety, Notorious

( Latin Notorietas, notorium , from notus , known). Notoriety is the quality or the ...

Notre Dame de Montreal, Congregation of

Marguerite Bourgeoys, the foundress, was born at Troyes, France, 17 April, 1620. She was the ...

Notre Dame, School Sisters of

A religious community devoted to education. In the United Sates they have conducted parish ...

Notre Dame, Sisters of (of Cleveland, Ohio)

A branch of the congregation founded by Blessed Julie Billiart. In 1850, Father Elting of ...

Notre Dame, University of

(Full name is the University of Notre Dame du Lac ). Notre Dame is located in Northern ...

Notre-Dame de Namur, Institute of

Founded in 1803 at Amiens, France, by Bl. Julie Billiart (b. 1751 d. 1816) and ...

Notre-Dame de Sion, Congregation of

Religious institute of women, founded at Paris in May 1843, by Marie-Théodore and ...

Nottingham

(NOTTINGHAMIEN) One of the original twelve English dioceses created at the time of the ...

Nourrisson, Jean-Felix

Philosopher, b. at Thiers, Department of Puy-de-Dôme, 18 July, 1825; d. at Paris, 13 June, ...

Nova Scotia

I. GEOGRAPHY Nova Scotia is one of the maritime provinces of Canada. It forms part of what was ...

Novara

(NOVARIENSIS). A diocese and the capital of the province of Novara, Piedmont, Italy, noted ...

Novatianism

Novatian was a schismatic of the third century, and founder of the sect of the Novatians; he ...

Novatus, Saint

St. Novatus, who is mentioned on 20 June with his brother, the martyr Timotheus, was the son of ...

Novello, Blessed Agostino

(Matteo Di Termini), born in the first half of the thirteenth century, at Termini, a village of ...

Novena

(From novem , nine.) A nine days' private or public devotion in the Catholic Church to ...

Novice

I. DEFINITION AND REQUIREMENTS The word novice , which among the Romans meant a newly acquired ...

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Nu 19

Nubia

Located in North-eastern Africa, extending from Sennar south to beyond Khartoum and including the ...

Nueva Cáceres

(NOVA CACERES) Diocese created in 1595 by Clement VIII ; it is one of the four suffragan ...

Nueva Pamplona

(NEO-PAMPILONENSIS). Diocese in Colombia, South America, founded in 1549 and a see erected by ...

Nueva Segovia

(NOVAE SEGOBIAE) Diocese in the Philippines, so called from Segovia, a town in Spain. The town ...

Nugent, Francis

Priest of the Franciscan Capuchin Order, founder of the Irish and the Rhenish Provinces of said ...

Nugent, James

Philanthropist, temperance advocate and social reformer b. 3 March, 1822 at Liverpool ; d. 27 ...

Numbers, Use of, in the Church

No attentive reader of the Old Testament can fail to notice that a certain sacredness seems to ...

Numismatics

(From the Greek nomisma , "legal currency") Numismatics is the science of coins and of ...

Nun of Kent

Born probably in 1506; executed at Tyburn, 20 April, 1534; called the "Nun of Kent." The career of ...

Nunc Dimittis

(The Canticle of Simeon). Found in St. Luke's Gospel (2:29-32) , is the last in historical ...

Nuncio

An ordinary and permanent representative of the pope, vested with both political and ...

Nunez, Pedro

(Pedro Nonius). Mathematician and astronomer, b. at Alcacer-do-Sol, 1492; d. at Coimbra, ...

Nuns

I. ORIGIN AND HISTORY The institution of nuns and sisters, who devote themselves in various ...

Nuptial Mass

"Missa pro sponso et sponsa", the last among the votive Masses in the Missal. It is composed of ...

Nuremberg

(NÜRNBERG) The second largest city in Bavaria, situated in a plain on both sides of the ...

Nusco

(N USCANA ) Diocese in the province of Avellino, Italy, suffragan of Salerno ; dates from ...

Nussbaum, Johannn Nepomuk von

German surgeon, b. at Munich 2 Sept., 1829; d. there 31 Oct., 1890. He made his studies in the ...

Nutter, Robert, Ven.

English martyr ; b. at Burnley, Lancashire, c. 1550; executed at Lancaster, 26 July, 1600. He ...

Nuyens, Wilhelmus

Historian, b. 18 August, 1823, at Avenhorn in Holland ; d. 10 December, 1894, at Westwoud near ...

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Ny 4

Nyassa

Vicariate Apostolic in Central Africa, bounded north by the Anglo-German frontier, east by Lake ...

Nympha, Tryphon, and Respicius

Martyrs whose feast is observed in the Latin Church on 10 November. Tryphon is said to have ...

Nyssa

Vicariate Apostolic in Central Africa, bounded north by the Anglo-German frontier, east by Lake ...

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