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

Annali di Storia della Scienza

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Anno XV, 2000, fasc. 2

The Galilean Lectures  

C. V. PALISCA, Vincenzo Galilei, scienziato sperimentale, mentore del figlio Galileo


T. REGGE, Galileo e il principio di relatività




F. SARGOLINI, La critica di Vincenzo Galilei al misticismo numerico di Gioseffo Zarlino
The long and bitter dispute between Gioseffo Zarlino, the foremost musical theorist of the sixteenth century, and Vincenzo Galilei, practical musician and Galileo’s father, raises important issues as it concerns the methodological approach towards musical phenomena. In particular, the present work shows that the true overthrowing of Zarlino’s a priori approach (besides the relationship between music and words and other aspects of content) can be found in a new conception of numbers, namely the passage from numerical and theoretical mysticism (dating back to the Pythagorean approach) to an empirical methodology. The description of this new way to treat numbers (as instruments) is shown through an analysis of two of Vincenzo Galilei’s manuscript essays: the Discorso particolare intorno alle forme del Diapason and the Discorso particolare intorno all’Unisono. The originality of these works lies in their presentation of factual experiments.


S. DUPRE’, Mathematical instruments and the «Theory of the concave spherical mirror»: Galileo’s optics beyond art and science
This paper will deal with Galileo’s optics prior to his involvement with the telescope. It will be argued that an anachronistic distinction between art and science has obscured the scope and the interconnections of Galileo’s optics. The paper will focus on an analysis of the «Theorica specula concavi sphaerici», a less known document in the MS Gal. 83, that always has resisted interpretation, because its connection with Galileo’s involvement with a tradition of mathematical and optical instrument designing has not been understood.


T. CERBU – M.P. LERNER, La disgrâce de Galilée dans les Apes Urbanae : sur la fabrique du texte de Leone Allacci
The manuscript of Allacci’s Apes Urbanae shows that the reserve of its article on Galileo can be directly attributed to pope Urban VIII’s decision in June 1633 to ban the Dialogo sopra i due massimi sistemi del mondo and to impose Galileo’s abjuration. The article went through two earlier versions. The first quoted the lavish praise given Galileo by Maffeo Barberini when he was still a cardinal, while the second provided a complete citation of the Dialogo, items which were both subsequently removed. Not withstanding this censorship, the article contains information which Allacci can only have obtained from sources close to Galileo.

pag. 589

F. CAMEROTA, Architecture and science in Baroque Rome. The mathematical ornaments of Villa Pamphilj
Among those projects traditionally attributed to Francesco Borromini, the one for Villa Pamphily has roused the most controversy. The drawings of the villa are clearly in his hand; however, historians are uncertain to what extent he is to be credited with the conception of the building’s particular scientific program as «a study of practical mathematics». This program, proposing refined applications of optics, catoptrics, dioptrics, gnomonics, astronomy, acoustic, and magnetism, has generally been interpreted as an uncommon expression of Borromini’s ingenuity assisted by the scientific knowledge of Virgilio Spada, the architect’s friend and collaborator to whom we owe the preservation of the drawings and writings concerning Villa Pamphilj. However, unlike the drawings that scholars have so carefully examined in checking their attribution, the scientific program has heretofore never undergone a critical reading. This study proposes an attentive reading of the original Latin version of the program, a document only recently rediscovered, that leads us to attribute the authorship of the «mathematical ornaments» of Villa Pamphilj to the French matematician Emmanuel Maignan. Furthermore, this reading compels us to reconsider the sources of certain formal elements in Borromini’s work in the context of the period’s scientific discoveries.

pag. 611

D. KNIGHT, Genesis & geology : a very English compromise
William Buckland won a medal from the Royal Society in 1822 for researches which seemed to demonstrate the reality of Noah’s Flood. In 1830 his pupil Charles Lyell began to publish his Principles of Geology to which the Bible was irrelevant, and its short timescale indeed harmful. When he wrote his Bridgewater Treatise in 1837, Buckland has changed his mind without giving up his faith; he has reinterpreted Genesis in a compromise which was to last for two decades, until Charles Darwin's Origin of Species was published in 1859. The ‘victor’s history’ written by T.H. Huxley and his allies has made it harder to understand Buckland’s position, as an ordained clergyman teaching science in a clerical university, and having faith in both geological evidence and biblical revelation; a study of his context is therefore interesting.


S. ZANIERI, Un gioco ottico di Ludovico Buti al Museo di Storia della Scienza di Firenze
Records in the Medici archives report a payment for an optical game made by the painter Ludovico Buti in February 1593. The detailed description of the scientific tool corresponds exactly to the optical game from the Medicean collection that is currently conserved in the Museum of the History of Science in Florence. This game was initially attributed to Jean François Niceron. This attribution is disproved by the fact that Buti’s death took place two years before Niceron’s birth. The tool allows one to see the Portraits of the Duke of Lorraine and his daughter Christine at the same time, thanks to a mirror and 37 prismatic bars where the two faces are painted.
Ludovico Buti made the tool for the Grand Duke Ferdinando I de’ Medici, probably following the instructions provided by the cartographer and monk Egnazio Danti in his commentary on Vignola’s work.


I. CHINNICI, 19th Century spectroscopic instruments in Italian astronomical observatories
This paper examines the scientific activity in Italy in the second half of 19th century in the emerging field of astrophysics and the role of some Italian makers. It also provides a list of spectroscopic instruments used by the main Italian astrophysicists for their pionieristic studies of spectral analysis and attempts to give an explanation of the intrinsic weakness of the Italian industry of scientific instruments in this field.

Per un Archivio della Corrispondenza degli scienziati italiani  

L. CARBONE, R. GATTO, F. PALLADINO, Il carteggio Amodeo
Federico Amodeo (1859-1946) was a mathematician and a historian of the mathematical sciences. As a mathematician he was “libero docente” at the University of Naples. His interests extended from projective to algebric geometry and his mathematical research was carried out for the most part from the mid-1880s until the end of the nineteenth century. As a historian he was active from the first years of the twentieth century until his death. In this capacity he was interested in mathematics, mathematicians and institutions in the Kingdom of Naples (later the Kingdom of the Two icilies, from 1815), and also in the historical development of analytical and projective geometry and the history of conic sections. He held the chair in History of Mathematics in the University of Naples from 1905 until 1910, the year in which the chair was suppressed. Nonetheless he continued to teach this subject as a “libero docente” until 1923. Here we present the list of more than 1.300 writings, constituting his Correspondence, amongst which the letters of Castelnuovo. Pascal, Peano, Segre and Achille Sannia are of particular significance. We also present the complete list of publications, reconstructed thanks to the consultation of incomplete printed bibliographies and a manuscript list.

F. DE FINETTI, Alcune lettere giovanili di B. de Finetti alla madre
In the present paper six letters by B. de Finetti addressed to his mother E. Menestrina before and after his university degree are examined.
Istituzioni e fonti  

M. CIARDI, Concorsi e premi all’Accademia delle Scienze di Torino: programmi di ricerca e strategie di politica scientifica
Competitions were one of the principal instruments used by academies to stimulate scientific activity, in the domains of both pure and applied sciences. This is demonstrated by the numerous eighteenth century competitions in the fields of astronomy, mathematics, electrology and chemical technology. In this article we examine two specific cases that concern the history of Academy of Sciences in Turin during the period of the Risorgimento.

Recensioni pag.751
Schede pag.797
The IMSS bookshelf  pag.811
Indici (Anno XV, 2000) pag.821
Back to contents  

Anno XV, 2000, fasc. 1


F.GIUDICE, La tradizione del mezzo e la nuova teoria della luce di Leonhard Euler
The object of this study is Leonhard Euler's physical optics as it is formulated in Nova theoria lucis et colorum (1746). The focus is on this particular work  by Euler for two reasons: 1) Nova theoria represents undoubtedly the most comprehensive and systematic medium theory of the 18th century; 2) it contains the basic principles of Euler's conception of the nature of light, which he later mantained. The works of the most important advocates of this tradition (Huygens, Malebranche and Johann II Bernoulli) are here analysed, to give a historical frame to Euler's role in the medium tradition. Though these authors try elaborate a theory of light alternative to the emission theory, they never realize the contrast between the medium and the emission traditions. From this perspective, Nova theoria is a real transition point: Euler is fully aware of the antithesis between the two traditions; he compares them, he refutes the arguments in favour of emission theory and formulates an alternative one, that will substantially be the first and the most significative antagonist of emission model. The essay examines also the central questions of Euler's theory of light, i.e. how pulses are generated and propagated, the nature of the rays of light and the relations among pulse  distance, frequency, and velocity.


S. LINGUERRI, La Società Italiana per il Progesso delle Scienze: 1907-1930
The article considers the institutional activity of the Società Italiana per il Progresso delle Scienze, from its reconstitution to about 1930. The aim is to explain the crucial role of its founder, Vito Volterra, to characterize the Society's activity and is to delineate the periods of internal transition of the Society with regard to cosmopolitism nad nationalism, subjects of science, pure and applied research both in the first period and in the after-war period.


L. ANDREOZZI, Vito Volterra organizzatore scientifico e la nascita della biologia matematica in Italia
In the last few decades quite a few articles have been published concerning Volterra's contribution s to biomathematics. These articles are usually focused on the works of Volterra published after 1926, while they overlook Volterra's intense activity as scientific organizer in the field of oceanographic studies in the years that span from 1910 - the year of his celebrated dissertation  about the applications of mathematics to social and biological sciences - to 1925, when he met his prospective son-in-law Umberto D'Ancona. in this article I shall try to fill this gap by telling the history of Volterra's scientific collaboration with Italian biologists (such as Giovan Battista Grassi, Luigi de Marchi and Gustavo Brunelli) in the decades before his meeting with Umberto D'Ancona. This story is worth telling because it helps to explain the stronger emphasis Volterra placed in his first biomathematical papers on the importance of the applications of mathematics to biology for practical matters (such as the prevention of epidemics and the enhancement of the fishing industry) rather than on more theoretical issues, which he tackled only in the last years of his life.


F. TURCO - L. CERRUTI, Charles J. Pedersen e le origini della chimica supramolecolare
The essay is divided in three parts. The first part is dedicated to C.J. Pedersen and to his work in the Du pont laboratories. After a brief biography  and a description of the research milieu at Du Pont, the narrative follows the discovery of crown ethers, its announcement with the momentous 'blockbuster' of 1967, and its immediate impact on the chemical community. In this first part is also emphasised how the Du Pont Patent Division imposed a very long delay on the publication of Pedersen's seminal paper. The second part of the present essay describes the initial contributions by J.M. Lehn and D.J. Cramm. The innovative and different features of their researches are analysed, as well as the progressive establishment of the new research field. The third and last part discusses the three Nobel Lectures given in 1987 by Pedersen, Lehn and Cramm; an attentive reading of the texts reveals the research intetions, writing styles, and epistemological awareness of the three Authors. Beside the narrative of the origin of supramolecolar chemistry, the principal results of the essay are: (a) the co-operative effect of very different experimental researches also in the highly specialised contemporary chemistry ; (b) further evidence on the contrast between auto-biographical reconstruction of the past and the historical documents; (c) the feasibility of historical research on recent disciplinary events and processes; (d) the usefulness of sources found on the World Wide Web.


A. LUALDI, Repertorio dei costruttori italiani di strumenti scientifici
A biographical inventory of Italian scientific instrument makers has been conducted through extensive research in public and private collections throughout the world. The time-span is comprised between the 16th and the 18th  centuries for each maker information about his signed and dated instruments, categories, collections and references has been given. As the first attempt of a listing of Italian makers, it must be considered as a work in progress. in a short time the text will be transfered on Internet to allow new additions and the corrections brought by the continuation of research.

pag. 169

N. SCIANNA, Indagine sui grandi globi a stampa di Vincenzo Coronelli 
Seconda Parte: il globo celeste
In the second part of this study of the 3,5 foot globes we analysed the celestial globes. we directly examined 31 globes, the answera to 9 questionnaires and the two editions of the Libro dei Globi. We found out that four cartouches, used as the means of comparison, present sore variations according to the editions which proved to be five for the convex globe and two for the concave one.
The research allowed us to discovered a previously unknown type of celestial globe. We attributed it to the first Venetian edition. There are only two examples of this type: one at the Centro Studi Ricerche Ligabue in Venezia and the other at the Harry Humanities Research Center, University of Texas at Austin.

pag. 235

Per un Archivio della Corrispondenza degli Scienziati Italiani


A. MESCHIARI, Corrispondenza di Giovanni Battista Amici con Giovanni Plana
The correspondence between Giovanni Battista Amici  and the Astronomer Royal Of Turin Giovanni Plana belonging to the Estense Library in Modena (« Fondo Amici» and «Autografoteca Campori» ), consists of 36 letters altogether. Undoubtedly it represents a document of a great interest for the history of science, especially where it discusses the application of probabilities to astronomical observations, and the new wave-theory of light of Young and Fresnel.

Istituzioni e fonti  

I. IANNACONE, Documents relatifs à l'histoire de l'astronomie chinoise et aux rapports scientifiques entre l'Europe et la Chine (XVIIE - XIXE siècles) conservés à la Bibliotèque de l'observatoire de Paris - Première Partie - 
In the Library of the Astronomical Observatory of Paris, there are many easily documents, relative to the scientific relation between Europe and China, Between the 17th and 19th centuries. Among them, we have letters, papers, notes, and astronomical observations made by Jesuit scientific missionaries in China such as A. Gaubil (1689-1759), F. Verbiest (1623-1688), I. Koegler (1680-1746), etc., among the translations stands out Bu Tian Ge (Song of Pacing the Heavens, 590 ca.), translated and annoted by A. Gaubil. These documents are important not only in the field of astronomy, but also for geography, anthropology, linguistics, users and customs, etc. , and they are indispensable for the comparative study of scientific development in Europe and China.
The aim of this paper is the recovery , the analysis, the re-evaluation and systematic presentation of this patrimony.


G. SCALVA, Un medico alla corte di Carlo Emanuele III: Vitaliano Donati e il suo viaggio in Levante (1759-1762)
Vitaliano Donati, physician and naturalist, born in Padua in 1717, around the mid-eighteenth century played a significant role among the leading Italian philosophers, performing in Italy and in the Balkans some important naturalistic reserach that set the basis for the «geographical map», the new theory of Carl Linné.

In 1751, King Charles Emmanuel of Savoy called him to the chair of Botany in Turin University. During the permanence of Vitaliano Donati in the Kingdom of Sardinia he continued his important activities in botany, mineralogy and geology and made relevat observations about climate, earthquakes, and mining-sites in Piedmont always having the aim of increasing the knowledge of local resources and their potential for exploitation.

In 1759 the king entrusted Vitaliano Donati  with the direction of a scientific and commercial mission in Egypt and in the East Indies. This voyage had a double purpose: to collect samples for a Museum and for the Botany Garden, and to observe in those countries the processes of mineral extraction, of agricultural cultivation and for livestock breeding. The travel started in Venice in June 1759, and among critical events and diplomatic plots, continued to the Middle East and Egypt, from where it continued until wriving at  the Indian Ocean. But this adventure ended in February 1762 when Donati died on a Turkish boat not far away the Indian coast nesr Mangalore. This article, which trace the complete transcription of the correspondence concerning the voyage, also reports the text of the "instructive memory", issued by the king to Vitaliano Donati, and summarises the scientific and political scopes of this unfortunate enterprise.

Discussioni critiche  

P.GOVONI, Biography: A critical tool to bridge the History of Science and the History of Women in science
Report on a conference at Newham College, Cambridge, 10-12 September 1999

Nova Media  

M.BERETTA, Panopticon Lavoisier: Base de données et histoire documentaire de la Révolution chimique

Recensioni pag.427
Schede pag.461
The IMSS bookshelf  pag.481
Indici (Anno XV, 2000) pag.489


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