Locke’s Life and Times

Milton, JR. "Locke's Life and Times." The Cambridge Companion to Locke. Ed. Vere Chappell, Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1994.


Exactly when Locke first became acquainted with the ideas of the mechanical philosophy cannot be determined. There is no evidence that he had any links with the group of innovators associated with John Wilkins at Wadham – unlike his precocious contemporary at both Westminster and Christ Church Robert Hooke. If he had read anything be Descartes, there is no trace of it among his surviving papers. From 1660 onward, however, Locke augmented his medical studies with a thorough course of reading in the new mechanical philosophy, starting with Boyle’s recently published New Essays Physico-Mechanical touching the Spring of Air. He read widely among Descartes’s works, concentrating especially on the Dioptrics and the Meteors (in Latin translation) and the Principia Philosophiae, especially Parts II and IV; he also read at least some of Gasendi’s Syntagma Philosophicum, though probably not very much.