Proceedings of Bridges 2010: Mathematics, Music, Art, Architecture, Culture (2010)

Pages 311–316 Regular Papers

Simon Stevin (1558/59–1620) was a mathematician, physicist and
engineer with an extremely wide spectrum of interest. His music
treatise titled *Vande spiegeling der Singconst* was written in ca.
1600 but remained unpublished until the end of the 19th century.
This was the first European writing which defined the equal temperament
with mathematical exactness, involving the ratio ^{12}√2 for
half-tones
and chromatic steps. This paper tries to show parallels between his
music theory and his general way of thinking. It describes the
highly contradictory and changing practical requirements and demands
a theory of tone systems and temperaments had to meet; and it
explains how Stevin, sacrificing much of the practical needs of the
musician of his day for the simplicity of theoretical construction,
discovered ingeniously equal temperament which was justified and
generally accepted only two centuries later, with the development
of musical style.

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