Institute and Museum of the History of Science, Florence, ITALY

Annali di Storia della Scienza

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Anno XIII, 1998, fasc. 2

P. ROSSI, I punti di Zenone: una preistoria vichiana
This study considers the reasons for the radical incompatibility between atomist theses and the conclusions reached by the Council of Trent on the sacrament of the Eucharist. The texts of several seventeenth century Jesuits -Suarez, Pereira, Arriaga and Oviedo- are examined here. Present in these texts is an attempt to develop a natural philosophy alternative to the Aristotelian one, capable of retaining its distance from impious atomism, but, nonetheless, adopting certain central aspects concerning belief in discontinuity and indivisibles. A strong line of demarcation between Aristotelians and anti-Aristotelians can be traced through their different conceptions of the continuum. Zenoism (which regards the continuum as composed of points) was defended on various occasions in the Jesuit context, and was also repressed and condemned a number of times. In the background to these problems, the atomism of Galileo is reconsidered, and the "atomism of points" described theoretically by Boscovich is examined. Even during the seventeenth century, however, mention was frequently made of a particular type of atomists who regarded atoms as without extension. Many Vico scholars regarded his profession of Zenonisms (central to his De antiquissima of 1710) as a "philosophical invention of Vico". In reality, however, Vico had a Zenonist Jesuit as his teacher, and his entire discussion of "metaphysical points" is linked to a specific and very little known philosophical tradition. In the whole of Europe between the middle of the seventeenth century and the first decades of the eighteenth century, Zenonist was a term in common use, and was readily comprehensible, like Scotist, or, in more recent times, Popperian.


E. GIUSTI, Elements for the relative chronology of Galilei's De motu antiquiora
The order of composition of the four treatises bearing the collective title De motu antiquiora has been debated amongst Galileian scholars, and different solutions have been proposed. On the basis of a detailed comparison between the passages common to two or more of the treatises, we propose new arguments in favour of the sequence Dialogue, Essay in 23 chapters, Essay in 2 chapters, Essay in 10 chapters.


A. G. CAVAGNA, Opere e libri di un astronomo cartografo del XVIII secolo: tra erudizione e stato.
Giovanni Giacomo Marinoni (Udine 1676 - Vienna 1755), of humble origins, lived in Italy and Austria as an official of the Empire. In the early Eighteenth century he embarked upon a brilliant career as a mathematics teacher, a topographer and a military engineer. He set up and run a military school in Vienna, partly financed by the Crown. The curriculum of the school included many new technical skills. As a cartographer and surveying instructor he was in the region of Lombardy where he defended the interests of the Austrians. He built the first Viennese astronomical observatory, again only partly financed by the Crown. He was enobled and created Imperial counsellor. As an habitué of the Republic of Letters he corresponded with many scholars and became a member of the London, Berlin and Saint Peterburg Academies. He published his own works and owned a rich library.


S. CASATI, Storie di folgori: il dibattito italiano sui conduttori elettrici nel Settecento.
In the second half of the Eighteenth century a heated debate on the use of the lightning conductor took place in Europe. Franklin's ingenious discovery did not gain general approval among the European philosophers and raised fears and doubts in most part of the public opinion. In Italy the use of the lightning conductor gained large acceptance although it also aroused criticism and controversies that required the invention f famous scientists, such as G. Toaldo, M. Landriani, and F. Fontana. Thanks to their efforts and dedication the idea that science could master a powerful and destructive natural phenomenon such as lightning was finally accepted. The cultural struggle for the use of the «electric bars» not only contributed to the achievements of a scientific innovation, but also to a change of mentality.


G. N. VLAHKIS, The reception of electric theories during the dawn of Neohellenic scientific thought.
This paper examines the gradual development of electricity in Greece during the 18th century. Although electricity had never been valued by Greek scholars to the degree that mechanics had, it is proved that it finally received the interest worthy of a major field of scientific endeavour. In our study we present the various theories on the nature of electricity described by Greek scientists, identify the principal phenomena and demonstrate the experimental character of this branch of physical thought. Finally we show that the texts by Greek scholars during the early period of the Neohellenic Renaissance, namely before 1800, largely lack a theoretical discussion of electrical phenomena, while other disciplines such as optics, heat and mechanics were treated both on a theoretical and an experimental basis.


G. MONACO, Alcune considerazioni sul «Maximus tubus» di Hevelius.
The longer focus telescope of Hevelius -named the «Maximus Tubus»- is often called «aerial telescope» or «telescope without a tube». But the name «Maximus Tubus» that Hevelius assigned shows the presence of the tube. The instrument actually was made by Tito Livio Burattini, an Italian scientist and instrument maker who lived in Poland. He made the instrument in accordance with a plan by Candido Del Buono. The telescope, in place of the long wooden tube, was made of a wooden axis on which tubular sections of paper or cloth were placed.


M. MISITI, Macchine per studiare. I modelli agrari della fabbrica di arnesi rurali di Meleto nell'Istituto tecnico toscano.
This paper presents some models of the instruments built in the institute of Cosimo Ridolfi in Meleto and currently existing at the Istituto Tecnico G. Salvemini of Florence.


Per un archivio della corrispondenza degli scienziati italiani:

S. CICENIA, Le lettere di E. Beltrami ad A. Genocchi sulle geometrie non euclidee.
In the present paper six letters by E. Beltrami addressed to A. Genocchi on non Euclidean geometry are examined.

Istituzioni e fonti:

M. CAMEROTA, Adattar la volgar lingua ai filosofici discorsi. Una inedita orazione di Niccolò Aggiunti contro Aristotele e per l'uso della lingua italiana nelle dissertazioni scientifiche.
The manuscript Palatino 1137 in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale in Florence contains an unknown text of Niccolò Aggiunti, disciple of Galileo and successor of Castelli to the chair of mathematics at the university of Pisa. The document develops a strong criticism of Aristotele's undisputed authority in philosophy, and, at the same time, advocates the use of the vernacular in scientific dissertations, holding that the Italian language is more powerful and direct means of expression than scholastic Latin. Aggiunti's linguistic arguments seem closely related to the views of Sperone Speroni (1500-1588), whose linguistic perspective was very influential in late Renaissance Italy.
The following work present the transcription of Aggiunti's text, preceded by a preface that attempts to reconstruct the intellectual context in which the document was formulated.


M CIARDI, Theory and Technology: the Avogadro manuscripts at the Turin Academy of Sciences.
The aim of this essay is to present the whole collection of the Avogadro manuscripts at the Turin Academy of Sciences and a new image of a scientist who was not only interested in questions of a theoretical nature concerning the foundation of physics and chemistry. As a matter of fact Avogadro also participated directly in the artisanal and technological development of the Kingdom of Sardinia through his activity as a consultant for the Turin Academy of Sciences.

Discussioni critiche:

G. DI PASQUALE, La stadera: un problema di filologia, storia ed archeologia.

C. VASOLI, Jean Bodin e la scienza del Rinascimento. pag.667
M. SEGALA, Riflessioni sulla scienza romantica. pag.677
Recensioni pag.693
Schede pag.757
Attività di ricerca  

P. Damerow - J. Renn, Galileo at Work: His Complete Notes on Motion in an Electronic Representation

Indici (Anno XIII, 1998) pag.791
Back to contents  


Anno XIII, 1998, fasc. 1

D. LAURENZA, La composizione del corpo. Fisiognomica ed embriologia in Leonardo.
Physiognomics is included by Leonardo among the matters to be treated in his book of anatomy. In this context embriology provides physiognomics with a scientific explanation through the theory of the generative soul (virtus formativa) which directly produces the detailed form of each individual body or compositio. Unlike the well-known medical concept of complexio, compositio concerns the solid parts of the body and it is a part of a physiological theory alternative to the humoral one. Leonardo appears to be influenced by a scholastic tradition of biology represented by authors such as Albertus Magnus and the fifteenth-century Bolognese doctor Hieronymo Manfredi.


M.-D. COUZINET, Notes sur les Medicinalia de Tommaso Campanella.
The inadequacy of the Galenic theory concerning the effect of medicines prompted Campanella, after Fernel, to define a theory of the occult operation capable of curing those illnesses Hippocrates called "divine", thanks to a "metaphysical science". In his Medicinalia (1609), it is the "primalitary" constitution of living beings -the basic structure of reality whose specific function consists in accounting for occult operations in nature in general, and for the occult virtues of some remedies in particular- that is to generate the rules for applying the various medicines to the corresponding parts of the body. Yet its being occult prevents it from providing the medicinal practitioner with the laws of adaptation to its objects. I show that, for Campanella, as well as for Fernel, he methodically divides the realm of the occult, the Platonic dichotomy, applied to diseases and remedies, allowing a rational adaptation of the latter to the former, without knowing the nature of either. Thus medical practice possesses its own logic deriving from the nature common to man, the illnesses affecting him, and the medicines that can cure them. Medical efficacy then depends on a capacity for the methodical analysis of natural beings in their complexity, and for taking this into account in therapeutic applications.


A. CLERICUZIO, The Mechanical Philosophy and the Spring of Air. New light on Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke.
A detailed explanation of the elasticity of air is contained in Boyle's A Defence of the Doctrine touching the spring and Weight of the Air (1662). This explanation is based on the innate motion of corpuscles -a view which seems to contradict Boyle's often repeated statement that motion is not inherent to matter. In fact, evidence provided by Huygens' correspondence shows that the explanation of the spring of air to be found in Boyle's work was not formulated by Boyle, but by Hooke, whose name (for the printer's fault) did not appear in Boyle's Defence. Boyle's reluctance to give a single and definitive account of the elasticity of air was not due to his effort to establish the spring as a matter of fact, eschewing any attempt to explain it, as Shapin and Schaffer maintained. The reason of Boyle's position is that what he considered a plausible theory (Hooke's) was grounded on the Epicurean notion of self-moving corpuscles.


L. E. FUNARO, «Mezzi, metodi e macchine». Notizie su Giuseppe Morosi.
This essay, based on unpublished material, is the first biographical sketch of Giuseppe Morosi (1772-1840), the "mechanic": Educated in Pisa and Florence, he was exiled in the field of mechanical engineering, and manufacturing. Returning to Milan in 1801, he used his specialized knowledge of the textile industry as administrator and training supervisor in the first Lombard factory. Acutely aware of the importance of technical education, he travelled abroad in order to study manufacturing techniques and buy machinery. A Hapsbourg administrator after 1814, he was widely known in the Lombardo-Veneto and in the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, where he retired in 1833, maintaining those contacts with Tuscan scientists he had never lost.


C. BIAGINI, Ospedali vecchi e nuovi: il dibattito tecnico-culturale sul rinnovamento delle strutture ospedaliere nell'Italia post-unitaria. Il caso del Santa Maria Nuova a Firenze.
In the middle of the nineteenth century, the crisis of the traditional model of town planning also determined a strong change in supply and demand for public health. In Italy, a health reformation and reorganization of free hospital treatment and health service were considered essential for civil and social development by public opinion.
Meanwhile hygiene was becoming an autonomous discipline incorporating medical, statistical and technical contributions. In particular new rules for hospital design were being formulated which did not only concern buildings, but also involved management and administration. Nevertheless, the presence of monumental hospitals in many Italian towns delays the spread of new typological models, especially because of the high costs in building new hospitals. «Old or new hospitals» was the theme of a very interesting debate, involving technical and scientific environments and public opinion. The Santa Maria Nuova Hospital in Florence is an outstanding example of the above.


N. SCIANNA, Indagine sui grandi globi a stampa di Vincenzo Coronelli. Prima parte: Il globo terrestre.
The article shows the results of the first part of a research on the three-and-half-foot globes by V. Coronelli: the terrestrial globes. By means of the direct inspection of 31 terrestrial globes and the analysis of 9 replies to a specifically tailored form for an international survey, it has been possible to discover a new edition which leads to a redefinition of the four editions by Coronelli, thus eliminating the so-called «special issue». On examining the structure of the globes it was possible to categorize the different types of meridians and base stands, thus allowing us to identify a confusion between the two pairs at the Museum of Storia della Scienza in Florence.
The final part includes a list of the editions of those globes taken into consideration.


G. FERRARESE - F. PALLADINO, Sulle collezioni di modelli matematici dei dipartimenti di matematica dell'Università e del Politecnico di Torino.
The Nachlass of mathematical models currently existing at the Department of Mathematics of the University and the Polytechnic of Turin is among the most ancient in Italy: it started about 1880 and was connected with the spreading in Europe of German mathematical models published and distributed by Ludwig Brill in Darmstadt and by his successor (from 1899) Martin Schilling in Halle am Saale and later in Leipzig. The German models were conceived by eminent mathematicians including Ernst E. Kummer, Alexander Brill, Felix Klein. We provide here some data and both historical and mathematical explanations about the Nachlass of the University of Turin.


P. BRENNI - A. GIATTI, Lo strereocartografo Santoni modello IV: cronaca di un salvataggio.
The Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica of Florence has recently acquired a Santoni Model IV stereocartograph. This large instrument was used for producing topographical maps from stereoscopic aerial or terrestrial photographs. This type of stereocartograph had been proposed in 1943 by Ermenegildo Santoni (1896-1970), who invented and perfected several types of similar apparatuses over a period of many years. The instrument, which is purely analogical and represents one of the last apparatus of this kind, is a masterpiece of precision mechanics. Today all these apparatus are completely superseded by computers and plotters.

Per un archivio della corrispondenza degli scienziati italiani:

L. GUERRINI, Due lettere inedite di Tommaso Frosini a Francesco Redi sul De Motu Animalium di Giovanni Alfonso Borelli.
This article offers the reader two letters from Tommaso Frosini to Francesco Redi of 10 and 21 May 1681 in which important chapters of Giovanni Alfonso Borelli's masterpiece, De Motu Animalium are summarized. The commentary indicates the early circulation of Borelli's work in Florence and the special stress that Francesco Redi laid on it.


C. TRIARICO, La corrispondenza di Leonardo Ximenes. Inventario delle filze del carteggio conservate nel fondo nazionale della Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze.
The inventory of Leonardo Ximenes's letters conserved in volumes II_297-302 of the Fondo Nationale in the National Central Library of Florence describes part of a vast correspondence, the systematic study of which allows us to obtain unpublished information about the debate among European scientists in the second part of the eighteenth century. The numerous relationships of Ximenes, one of the most important scientist of the period, witness and inform us about the manifold fields of his activity. Through the discussion of controversial issues of Newtonian physics, engineering, natural history and cosmological speculation, the correspondence covers forty years of the history of scientific research and interventions in specific domains.

Istituzioni e fonti:

S. BARCHIELLI, L'Istituto Vaccinogeno all'Ospedale di Santa Maria degli Innocenti di Firenze nel XVIII secolo.
Under the government of the Lorraine dynasty, in 1756, Doctor Targioni Tozzetti and his colleague Scutellari inoculated six children with some drops of smallpox (taken from a 12 year-old boy who was already ill) at the Ospedale degli Innocenti, the old Florentine foundling hospital. This was the first instance of smallpox vaccination in Florence. Under the government of Pietro Leopoldo (Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1790 to 1792), in 1777 the inoculations were carried out under the responsibility of Doctor Stefano Baci. This time fourteen children were submitted to vaccination and it is interesting to note how many and what changes occurred with respect to the vaccination performed twenty years before.

Discussioni critiche:

V. VALERIO, Cognizioni proiettive e prospettiva lineare nell'opera di Tolomeo e nella cultura tardo-ellenistica.

Recensioni pag.299
Schede pag.343


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Last update: 04-Feb-2003