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<title> RIASSUNTO </title>One of the members of the Académie des Sciences, biographed by Condorcet in his famous Éloges, was Marin Cureau de la Chambre, a physician and philosopher quite unknown nowadays, but nevertheless an interesting figure in XVII century French culture. His career in the medical service of the court was prompted by an early protection assured to him by the chancellor Pierre Séguier, and then reinforced by the fact that he stood high both in Richelieu's and in Mazarin's favour. A polymath, Cureau wrote at first some physical essays on various arguments ― the nature of light and of the rainbow, for instance ―, rather precociously claiming the right to use French in scientific matters. His major contribution, though, aimed to a thorough knowledge of man, i.e. of his propensities and passions, vices and virtues. In what he called L'Art de connoistre les hommes, classic physiognomy merged with other techniques, and with a peculiar, sort of hermetic worldview, into a new discipline, wich should have served in everyday life and in the management of public affairs as well.

Affiliations: 1: Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa


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