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

Annali di Storia della Scienza

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Anno XIV, 1999, fasc. 2

The Galilean Lectures  
C. OSSOLA,  «Piazzette» e «caraffe»: 'Metafisica' Galileiana pag.423
M. B. CEOLIN, Galileo e la scienza sperimentale  pag.443

F. CAMEROTA, Il disegno del territorio e la difesa dello stato  I rilievi di Vincenzo Civitali per una  mappa delle fortificazioni lucchesi
The National Archive of Lucca holds an extensive collection of drawings that document a wide-ranging campaign of topographical surveys carried out between 1580 and 1583 for the purpose of tracing a detailed map of fortifications under the domain of the Republic of Lucca. The surveys lie chronologically between the map drawn by the military engineer Alessandro Resta in 1567 and the accurate chorography of the State of Lucca produced at the end  of the same century by the Paduan cosmographer Giovanni Antonio Magini. Historical circumstances suggest that the surveys may be attributed to the military engineer Vincenzo Civitali, who had been hired during that periodto superintend the State's fortifications along the border between the Duchy of Modena and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany. Apart from providing information on the Republic's cartographic and defense projects, these drawings provide firsthand documentation  of the work of a 16th C. topographer, as well as revealing the strategy applied when locating measuring stations which often coincided with a signaling tower , the choice of measuring instruments most readily associated with the simple theodolite, and the adoption of a surveying methodology that consisted in measuring azimuths and distances according to the codified precepts of the 16th C. treatise writers.


VALLORI RASINI, Alle origini della teoria dell'atto biologico di Viktor von Weizsaecker.
Between the thirties and forties of this century, drawing on a number of studies of perception and phenomena of sensory illusion, the neurophysiologist Viktor von Weizsaecker developed a conception of organic matter which was fundamentally different to the physiological and biological tradition of his time. For this reason, his theory of the Gestaltkreis required a profound revision of the methodological and conceptual instruments to be used in the study of man, and of the organism more generally. The organic entity is not a comparible object to the entities of physics, and ita analysis cannot be subjected to the same criteria and methods of that science. This being is properly termed a  «biological act», a dynamic reality whose structure is circular and cannot be divided into different phases connected by means of casual relationships. Organic processes involve a particular relationship between impossible to remove it from its context. Instead, it is necessary to evaluate the spatial and temporal positions in which is located in new, non-«objective» terms. Weizsaecker's conception, sensitive to the neovitalism (to which he was nonetheless firmly opposed) and to ideas typical of Romantic science, is essentially opposed to the legacy of mechanism, in the name of a biology as the science of a peculiar object, of which one cannot ignore the subjective component.


A. SEBASTIAN - M.J. JIMENEZ, Learned institutions: sources for unknown scientific instruments.
The authors are trying to draw attention to the problems suffered by different items belonging to scientific heritage when they are preserved in institutions (academies, libraries, universities) devoted to aims far from those of a museum. Curatorial and conservation work, and the diffusion of relevant collections, should be impelled and carefully carried out by specialists, who barely exist in those institutions of learning. This situation should encourage us to think seriously about the conditions of our scientific heritage: We present various objects, coming from different institutions, and now preserved in the Museo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologìa. One of them, the original compendium made by J. Zaragoza for the King Carlos II, is at the moment one of the most interesting surveying devices created in Spain in the seventeenth Century. 

pag. 491
Per un Archivio della Corrispondenza degli Scienziati Italiani  

L.GUERRINI, Matematica ed erudizione. Giovanni Alfonso Borelli e l'edizione fiorentina dei libri V, VI e VII delle Coniche di Apollonio di Perga.
As a consequence of the recovery of thirty-four of Giovanni Alfonso Borelli's letters to Carlo Roberto Dati relevant to the Florentine edition of V, VI and VII books of Apollonio of Perga's Coniche (1661), the article completes the known events and gives some information about the meaning of some philological and mathematical controversy to which it gave rise.

The letters show to the reader the lofty cultural quality of the edition of 1661 and enlighten the seventeenth-century debates on the genuineness of the codicological tradition as the means of transmission of the mathematical books of ancient times.

The intellectual connexion between the letterato Carlo Roberto Dati and the mathematician Giovanni Alfonso Borelli gives furthermore a proof of the very close links binding erudition and science in seventeenth-century Italy.


F.BARBIERI - M. ZUCCOLI, Un contributo al Carteggio di Guido Grandi e Odoardo Corsini.
The following letters aim to add a chapter to the studies about Guido Grandi (1671 - 1742), illustrating his relationship with Odoardo Corsini (1702 - 1765), historian and mathematician of the Scolopian fathers. Grandi, already a well known mathematician, received from the young Corsini an attempt at the squaring of the circle and kindly read it, pointing out its mistake. Eleven years later, Corsini submitted him another mathematical problem and its solution, which Grandi himself and other mathematicians had already discovered.

Istituzioni e fonti  

T. GRIFONI, I cataloghi botanici del giardino di villa La Loggia fra tradizione ed innovazione.
This article examines the nature of the Florentine garden of the villa La Loggia, property of Marchese Niccolò Panciatichi, with the benefit of the discovery of the first manuscript catalogue describing the botanical collection of the nobleman. The author reconstructs the events that led this garden to become a trait d'union between tradition and innovation in the botanical field, with particular regard for the new species introduced from Abyssinia by the English explorer James Bruce and entrusted to the care of the gardener  and botanical experimenter Giuseppe Piccioli, who belonged to a true dynasty of  «gardener-botanist», and was responsible for the second catalogue of the gardner in 1783. 


G. J. MASTROBISI, Aporie di una nuova concezione dell'etere nel manoscritto einsteiano del 1920.
The 1920 manuscript by Einstein entitled: Vorlesungen uber Relativitaetstheorie points out paradigmatically all tge preparations of the «Special Theory of Relativity», the importance and the role of this theory in the «General Theory of Relativity», the passage from a  «Special Theory of Relativity» to a «general» one, and the doubts and certainties  of its inventor, all that from a point of view of one of the most important issues of the history modern science: the problem of «Ether» definition. Just the Ether Theory, filtered through H. A. Lorentz's Theory, becomes in Einstein an "Inertial case" of the Classical «Principle of Relativity» and then, losing all its mechanical  qualities, becomes Gravitational Theory in H. Weyl's phenomenological point of view.

Discussioni critiche pag.663
Recensioni pag.675
Schede pag.735
The IMSS bookshelf  pag.755
Indici (Anno XIV, 1999) pag.773
Back to contents  

Anno XIV, 1999, fasc. 1

G. BARONCINI, Forme di lettura, Forme di cultura.
This essay tries an examination of the verbal and non-verbal lections of incunabula, conducted in function of the reader's culture. Are put under analysis all those subjective interventions that allow to gather in the text the cultural forms interacting and modelling a text reading as well as the determination of its meaning. However the printed text itself already contains objective and concrete elements predeterming the form of lection.Various authors are involved in the essay, such as among others Leibniz, Descartes and Nicholas de Lyra. From a general standpoint this is an attempt having the aim of singling out both facts and concepts useful to reconstruct, at least partially, the complex and elusive act of reading.


G. STRANO, The absent star.
Identification of entry no. 482 of Claudius Ptolemy's star catalogue (IIth century) and circumstance that has prevented it up to now.


Y. ZIK, GALILEO AND THE TELESCOPE The status of theoretical and practical knowledge and techniques of measurement and experimentation in the development of the instrument.
Galileo's presentation of the refinement of the telescope, by which he was able to view heavens and the enormous influence it had, created vast interest and raised controversies among scholars. Although scholars who dealt with the subject agreed that by using long focal lenses and a diaphragm, Galileo was able to improve the magnification and quality of the image, still the common view is that Galileo was able to build the telescope because he was a talented artisan and not because he colud acquire knowledge about the laws of optics that lay behind his success. This paper will shed new light upon and clarifies the empirical working methods and the extent of Galileo's knowledge of the optical principles involved in the construction of the telescope.


E. BENSA - G. ZANARINI, LA FISICA DELLA MUSICA Nascita e sviluppo dell'acustica musicale nei secoli XVII e XVIII.
The scientific revolution of XVII century concerned also the domain of music theory, deeply investigating the nature of musical sounds and the physics of their production. Also the classical explanations of musical consonance were questioned, looking for its hidden causes through physics experiments and mathematical models.The passionating history of musical acoustics from Galileo to the end of XVIII century is revisited, with a particular emphasis on consonance theories.


N.NICOLINI, Short accounts of chemical manufacture in Italy prior to unification.
In the broad socio-economical context the accent is placed on the of the characteristics of the 'chemical industry' and on the absence of a 'chemical conscience' necessary for an adequate launch.


A. ROSSI, Galileo Ferraris (1847-1897) tra scienza e tecnologia.
Galileo Ferraris (1847-1897), the most eminent Italian «electrician» in the last quarter of the XIX Century, is wrongly considered a pure technician who invented a new kind of electric induction motor. Instead, in introducing the new device, he also contributed, as a valuable mathematical physicist, to the deepning of Maxwell's electromagnetic theory itself, and, if ever, he did not draw all consequences of his invention from a practical point of view. Here are well exemplified the main characteristics of the beginning of Italian politechnical culture at the end of the XIX Century, which was also characterized by G. Ferrari's deep engagement in innovative teaching of electrical science and technology.


C. POGLIANO, Bachi, polli, grani. Appunti sulla ricezione della genetica in Italia (1900-1953).
Italian geneticists managed to establish the boundaries and structures of their own community only after the Second World War, when they promoted, in the space of a few years, a series of initiatives culminating in the Ninth International Congress of Genetics (Bellagio 1953). This essay traces the ways in which, from the beginning of the century, the revolutionary and swift development of the discipline found its context and interested audience in Italy. in contrast to our standard picture, there was no shortage of naturalists to dedicate themselves enthusiastically to genetics, even launching a campaign  in the 30's for its 'political' recognition. But cultural trenda after the First World War, and especially the directives of the Fascist regime, tended to favour scientific practical and economic values and keep the theoretical and interpretative nature of their work to a minimum. This was ultimately futile, given the indifference with which the centres of power responded. It was the reason, too, for their extremely weak, or almost non-existent participation in the preparations for the «evolutionary synthesis» in which European and American scientists were involved, which changed appreciably the character and methods of biology.


D. MONTI, Creation and destruction of corpuscles.
The main subject of this paper is the detailed analysis and discussion of a particular historical framework. The framework comprises two structurally symmetrical physical descriptions based on two theories which are apparently incommensurable from the point of view of research framework, the problems that generated them and the aims of their authors. The two descriptions concern the phenomena of the emission and absorption of light (in an article published by Dirac in 1927, commonly referred to as «Dirac's QED»)and of the creation and destruction of e+ - e -    pairs (in Dirac's socalled «holes model» of 1929). This symmetry has occasionally been mentioned in scientifica literature, but the intention of this paper is close study to gain a better understanding of the terms as support for the following thesis:the relationship between the two theories is not simply one of parallelism but is the product of a precise historical process, which can be sustained  at a logical level. In this sense Dirac's holes model can be seen as a result of a process of reflection which began in Dirac's QED and concenrned the mathematical foundations and conceptual framework of the«new» quantum mechanics. The two theoretical structures contain certain permanent forms which, when extracted from one context and re-introduced into the other, involve a transfer and generation of knowledge. 



F. BONOLI - M. ZUCCOLI, On two sixteenth-century instruments by Giovanni Magini (1555-1617).
This paper aims at stressing the importance of the Italian astronomer  Giovanni Antonio Magini (1555-1617) as instrument designer, describing two of his quadrants. The quadrant has manifold uses, in astronomy, topography, cartography and mathematics. Magini practises all these disciplines, as professor of Astronomy at the University of Bologna and the author of many important works, such as Italia ( a cartographic representation of Italy) and his Ephemerides.The history of the ownership of the quadrants designed by Magini, which can be followed until recent times, shows they were appreciated not only as antiques but as demonstrations of Magini's mastery of instrument design.


A. LUALDI, Biagio Burlini, un ottico del '700 veneziano
The sphere of activity of Biagio Burlini, an optician and instrument-maker working in Venice around the middle of the eighteenth century, is here pointed out. A research in the Archivio Patriarcale of Venice allowed to find the year of his birth (1709) and his death (13.1.1771). A survey of signed microscopes and telescopes now in various public and private collections contributes to a better knowledge of optical instrument-makers in that century.


Per un Archivio della Corrispondenza degli Scienziati Italiani


F. ABBRI, «Commercio di libri e produzioni naturali» 
II. Lettere di Carl Peter Thunberg a Giovanni Mariti
In this paper Carl Peter Thunberg's letters to Giovanni Mariti are published. The present essay is a contribution to the history of the Italian-Swedish relationships at the end of the Eighteenth century and it is a sequel to a paper on the same topic published in 1992.


A. MESCHIARI, Corrispondenza di Giovanni Battista Amici con Carlo Matteucci e Angelo Secchi.
We here publish 28 letters from the coppespondence of Giovanni Battista Amici, belonging to the Estense Library in Modena, concerning his relationship with two of the greatest Italian scientists of the XIX century: Carlo Matteucci and Angelo Secchi.

Istituzioni e fonti  

C.R.PALMERINO, Pierre Gassendi's De Philosophia Epicuri Universe Rediscovered New perspective on the Genesis of the Syntagma Philosophicum
This article deals with a manuscript, recently discovered at the British Library, which contains books VIII-XI of the De vita et doctrina Epicuri, the earliest extant version of Pierre Gassendi's Syntagma philosophicum.The contents of books IX to XI, composed between 1636 and 1637 and dedicated to Epicurus' canonics, have already been known through Ms. Carpentras 1832. Book VIII, however, which was finished in March, 1634, is the De philosophia Epicuri universe thet Pintard, Rochot and Bloch have declared lost. The present article provides an analysis of its contents and shows how those of its parts that had not been used for the Liber prooemialis of the Syntagma philosophicum (called De philosophia universe) were instead integrated into the apology De vita et moribus Epicuri, published in 1647. It now appears that, contrary to what has so far been assumed, the latter work, which was composed between 1633 and 1634, was modified before being printed.

Discussioni critiche pag.295
Recensioni pag.305
Schede pag.375
The IMSS bookshelf  pag.397
Indici (Anno XIV, I-1999) pag.415


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