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

Annali di Storia della Scienza

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Anno XVII, 2003, fasc.1

Annuncio / Announcement  pag.1



M. ROSEN, Don Miniato Pitti and the Second Life of a Scientist's Tools in Cinquecento Florence
Greatly esteemed in the late sixteenth century, the Florentine scientist and cosmographer Don Miniato Pitti left behind only a single securely attributed instrument. However, a newly discovered document indicates that immediately after Pitti's death in 1566 the young ducal cosmographer Egnazio Danti bought a number of Pitti's scientific tools and instruments, as well as several artistic objects. Danti's purchases shed new light on how tools circulated within the scientific community and also illustrate the high regard that the young Danti had for his predecessor.


F. CAMEROTA, Two new attributions: a refractive dial of Guidobaldo del Monte and the «Roverino compass» of Fabrizio Mordente
In this article two new attributions are proposed, concerning two instruments linked by their common provenance from Urbino, and more precisely from the shop of the renowned constructor of scientific instruments Simone Barocci. Both are described by Muzio Oddi, who provides testimony that is decisive for their attribution. The first is a rare refractive dial now in the Museum of the History of Science at Florence, documented in the Medicean collection since 1574, which can be identified with the one Oddi says that Guidobaldo del Monte ordered built at Urbino in 1572. The second is a proportional compass now at the Correr Museum in Venice, which perfectly matches Oddi's description of a compass constructed by Simone Barocci as ordered by Fabrizio Mordente around 1570. This is the first version of the famous compass that Mordente was to make known in later years through his treatises .


S. DUPRÉ, The Dioptrics of Refractive Dials in the Sixteenth Century
This article discusses a particular type of optical instruments, refractive dials, made in the sixteenth century, by placing them in the context of contemporary optical knowledge. First, the properties of refractive sundials and their introduction in the sixteenth century by the German instrument-maker George Hartmann will be discussed. Second, it will be shown how these refractive dials were constructed in the sixteenth century. From an analysis of the notes of Ettore Ausonio, this article argues that the procedure to make refractive dials used by instrument-designers in the sixteenth century was based on contemporary knowledge of refraction.

pag. 39

M.P. DONATO, L'onere della prova. Il Sant'Uffizio, l'atomismo e i medici romani
The essay aims at addressing the debates on corpuscular theories in Rome within the context of the political and religious tensions of the late 17th century.
Documents in the archives of the «Congregazione per la Dottrina della Fede» allow us to outline the changing attitudes of the Church of Rome towards atomistic philosophy and to highlight the factional clashes within Roman institutions on the issue. These dynamics gave way to the Congresso Medico Romano of G. Bresavola and G.M. Lancisi, an academy which soon became the promoting agent of an electric corpuscular medicine.
The Holy Office put the success of the «moderns» into question in 1690, after Alexander VIII had come to the throne. The attack was part of a general repression of atomism (also in Naples and Florence) but also of quietism and freethinking.
Despite the crisis, the «moderns» were able to bind their corpuscularism to a strictly defined epistemological model. In the frame of the contemporary biomedical sciences, questions on the ultimate nature of atoms could be abandoned without dismissing the corpuscular theory and practice of medicine.

pag. 69

M.T. MONTI, I lombrichi di Spallanzani. «Notomie» inedite contro i «garbugli e pasticci» dell'«argomento di analogia»
As though embarrassed by the huge amount of material he stored up, Spallanzani hid entire parts of his biological project. A good example is given by 25 laboratory notebooks which were to constitute the basis of a major work on regeneration he announced in the year 1768 and never published. There Spallanzani recorded anatomical observations he carried out on some annelids with a refinement of method and critical understanding only equalled by Malpighi and Lyonnet when observing caterpillars. His research on these organisms highlights how critically Spallanzani referred to the various versions of the generally accepted principle of the uniformity of composition of animal structure.

pag. 89

A. BANDINELLI, 1783 - Lavoisier and Laplace: Another Crucial Year. Antiphlogistic Chemistry and the Investigation on Living Beings between the Eighteenth and the Ninenteenth Centuries
The present paper suggests a new interpretation of Lamarckian biology based on the analysis of the different theories concerning living beings between the 18th and 19th centuries. The nouvelle chimie introduced a new concept of combustion that overturned the way of thinking about the heat of bodies. Moreover it is possible to show that the nouvelle chimie opened a new era by also changing the organisation of the so called "animate machine". The living body turned into a «natural compound» constantly exposed to material transformation. Thanks to the nouvelle chimie the living body became a natural system, i.e. a unit governed by two physico-chemical laws: the principle of the conservation of heat (1783) and the principle of the conservation of mass (1789). The belief in a living machine subject to Newtonian dynamics started to crumble: the image of a complicated machine died to give birth to the new concept of system. The living body was no longer a concern of mechanics but of physical-chemical discourse.


V.P. BABINI, Paola Lombroso, una donna nelle scienze dell'uomo
The article reconstructs the intellectual development of Paola Lombroso and the role she played in the diffusion of the field of child psychology in Italy. At a time when scientific psychology was in its early phases and studies on childhood were concentrated on its pathological aspects, Paola represents a unique voice in her field, and one well-respected by the Italian publishing scene. Introduced to these sciences by her father, Cesare, who himself recognized the legitimacy of the descriptive psychological approach, Paola developed in her writings a progressive distance from Lombrosian Anthropology. A self-taught and prolific author, well-known and well-respected by her peers, and translated abroad, Paola Lombroso, while never attaining primary status in scientific research or institutionally, nonetheless presented considerable contributions to the spread of this psychology. The reconstruction of Paola's development contributes to an overall explanation of the Italian context in the arena of psychological sciences at the time. In this period several women obtained considerable fame and visibility, thanks in part to the importance they attached to scientific popularisation both in the promotion of knowledge and in population's education.


A. MINELLI, L'omologia rivisitata
Many different and even contrasting notions of homology have been proposed over two centuries of comparative biology , beginning with the initial reference to idealised archetypes, down to the current concepts based on derivation from a common ancestor, or on shared developmental pathways or genetic (more extensively, informational) background. Select anatomical features such as the patterns of innervation, or the expression patterns of genes putatively involved in key developmental events, e.g. the Hox genes, have been repeatedly suggested as the most reliable cues to homology. This confidence, however, rests on shaky ground and results are never certain. Recent work in comparative morphology and evolutionary developmental biology increasingly suggests the need to abandon the traditional all-or- nothing notion of homology, in favour of a more flexible, factorial or combinatorial approach. In this way it will be possible to accommodate within one broad comparative view, respectful of phylogeny and developmental biology alike, many disparate notions such as positional and special homology, serial homology and temporal serial homology. All statements of homology, however, will thus require adequate qualification of the context specifically taken in consideration and the criteria used to address the comparison. It remains to be seen, in the near future, how far the old concept of homology, now under the burden of so many and so different notions, will still be of use to comparative biology .


Per un Archivio della corrispondenza degli scienziati italiani


A. MESCHIARI, Corrispondenza di Giovanni Battista Amici con William Henry Fox Talbot
William Henry Fox Talbot, pioneer of photography and discoverer of the negative-positive method, was in intermittent correspondence with Giovanni Battista Amici from 1822 to 1844. His original letters, kept by the Biblioteca Estense in Modena together with Amici's copies, are published here completely for the first time.

pag. 201

Istituzioni e fonti


C. BINO, Macchine e teatro. Il cantiere di Bernardo Buontalenti agli Uffizi
The article discusses the working method of Bernardo Buontalenti, the court engineer of the Medici family under Cosimo I and his son Francesco I.
Buotalenti is a crucial figure for the history of theatre, because he was able to consolidate and rivitalise a tradition, in so far as he used the pre-existing technical knowledge and, at the same time, reinterpreted it in an original way; moreover he "invented" a new profession. By analysing the Memoriale of Girolamo Seriacopi, Provveditore di Castello, which records the works made in Uffizi theatre for the wedding of Ferdinando I de' Medici and Cristina di Lorena (1589), I trace the dynamics of Buontalenti's building site in order to infer some knowledge about the stage machines from the work practice. This method of analysis enables me to make two hypotheses: on the one hand, Buontalenti's machinery was built according to the rules of Florentine tradition (which was in part different from the one from Pesaro which is the basis of Sabbatini's treaty and is usually considered the primary tool for understanding Buontalenti); on the other hand, the use of craft knowledge begins a specialization process that will develop along the seventeenth century.

S.E. CARNEMOLLA, Pedro Nunes, matematico e cosmografico portoghese del XVI secolo, e la sua Defesa do Tratado da Rumação do globo para a arte de navegar
The article contains an edition of an undated, and untitled Portuguese manuscript which is to be found in the National Library of Florence, and which once belonged to Cosimo III de' Medici, who had received it by the Portuguese engenheiro-mor and cosmographer Luís Serrão Pimentel. Nowadays known as Defensão do Tratado da Rumação do Globo para a Arte de Navegar, it represents a work by the Portuguese mathematician and cosmographer Pedro Nunes on navigational problems such as the representation of the loxodrome on a globe, after he had proved that a ship following a fixed course did not describe a fixed line, but a curve which cut successive meridians at the same angle. Because of his theories, Nunes had exposed himself to criticism, whereas the Florentine manuscript represents a reaction to the attacks he had suffered because of his teaching how to trace the loxodromic curve on a globe.
D. BERTOLONI MELI, Maurizio Mamiani as Newton Scholar pag.319
S. CAROTI, Pierre Souffrin pag.327
Discussioni critiche  
D. RAYNAUD, Linear perspective in Masaccio's Trinity fresco: demonstration or self-persuasion? pag.331
G. FERRARI, Letters in the Earth Sciences: their historic value and present-day scientific relevance pag.345
Recensioni pag.355

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