Institute and Museum of History of Science, Florence, ITALY

Evangelista Torricelli

1. Childhood and adolescence

Evangelista Torricelli.
The information we have about the childhood and adolescence of Torricelli is sparse and imprecise. We know for certain that he was born in Rome on 15 October 1608. We can also derive some information on his scientific training from the contents of a letter to Galileo of 11 September 1632. In this letter, Torricelli explains that after having studied "under the discipline of the Jesuit fathers" on his own for two years, at the age of 18 he became a "scholar" under the Abbot Benedetto Castelli. In February of the same year, 1632, the Dialogue concering the Two Chief World Systems had been published in Florence. Castelli, who, as it is known, was among the most faithful of Galileo's disciples and friends, scrutinised the reactions to the contents of the book in Roman circles with affectionate concern. As he had to leave Rome for a few days, he asked Torricelli to act as secretary for him. In this way, the young scholar had an opportunity to write to Galileo, answering one of his letters, and to inform him of the action taken by the abbot to avoid a "precipitous resolution", or, in other words, the condemnation of the book and its author. The hope that the worst might be avoided had not yet fully abandoned the Roman friends of Galileo. Torricelli, as he explains in the letter, was amongst the first Roman readers of the Dialogo. He studied its contents "with the delight [...] of one who, having already practised all of geometry most diligently [...] and having studied Ptolemy and seen almost everything of Tycho, Kepler and Longomontanus, finally, forced by the many congruences, came to adhere to Copernicus, and was a Galileian in profession and sect". This was the only occasion on which Torricelli openly declared himself to be a follower of the Copernican doctrine. Undoubtedly he was profoundly perturbed by the fate of the Dialogue, and the condemnation of Galileo which was promulgated by the Holy Office in June 1633. His interest in the proceedings can only have been heightened by Castelli's enforced absence from Rome at the very moment at which the trial began, and his instructions that Torricelli should follow the course of events and keep him informed.


Galileo Galilei, Dialogo
intorno ai due massimi
sistemi del mondo,
Florence 1632.

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