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Benedetti, Giovanni Battista

1. Dates
Born: Venice, 14 August 1530
Died: Turin, 20 January 1590
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 60
2. Father
Occupation: Aristocrat, Man Of Letters
His father, a Spaniard with patrician status, is spoken of as a philosopher and physicist (physicus), which Stillman Drake suggests means that he was interested in natural philosophy in general.
Later in his career Benedetti apparently had ample private means. He must have inherited them, and it appears to me that the circumstances must have been at least affluent. Note as well that he did not attend a university, which means that he had no need of professional credentials in order to live.
3. Nationality
Birth: Venice, Italy
Career: Italy
Death: Turin, Italy
4. Education
Schooling: No University
He learned philosophy, music and mathematics from his father. He had no formal education beyond the age of seven, except that he studied the first book of Euclid's Elements under Niccolo Tartaglia, probably about 1546-1548.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic (assumed)
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics, Physics, Mechanics
Subordinate: Astronomy, Astrology, Optics
Benedetti published De resolutione in 1553, a book of geometry, and other mathematical works followed.
Issues of mechanics enter into his second book of geometry and were prominent in a later work.
In Parma he carried out astronomical observations, and he published a work on sundials. His interest in astrology was always obvious in his astronomical work.
Extensive considerations of optical issues, including the camera obscura, are found in his works.
He was one of the first to treat musical harmonies in terms of vibrations. However, his consideration of music is confined to two letters and seems less important in his work than other disciplines.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Personal Means
Secondary: Academia
1558-1566, court mathematician to Duke Ottavio Farnese at Parma. He gave instruction at the court, served as astrologer, and advised on engineering of public works.
1567-1590, in the service of the Duke of Savoy, Emanuele Filiberto and his successor, as ducal mathematician and philosopher, with a regular stipend of 300 gold scudi. His duties included the teaching of mathematics and science at court, and he served as the duke's advisor on the university affairs. He also designed and constructed various public and private works.
When payment of his stipend was in arrears in Parma, once for ten months and another time for twenty, Benedetti had sufficient means to live. In 1570 he had 2500 scudi with which he purchased what amounted to a perpetual annuity of 100 scudi.
Apparently he taught in the University of Torino.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official, Aristrocrat
Benedetti dedicated De resolutione (1553) and also his second book (54) to Gabriele de Guzman, Abbot of Pontelungo, a Spanish Dominican installed in Pontelungo by the King of France (sic) in return for services at the court. Guzman had the title and rank of Monsignor. Benedetti addressed Guzman, in the dedication, as "Domino [the ablative] suo semper osservandissimo" (Master always to be most highly honored).
In Parma Benedetti constructed a sundial for Count Giulio Rangone.
The Duke of Savoy. See above. Benedetti was granted a patent of nobility by the court in 1570. Note that the Duke of Savoy (Emanuele Filiberto) was interested in raising the level of culture in his state, and to that end he gathered learned men from all Italy around him.
Duke Ottavio Farnese. See above.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Hydraulics, Military Engineering
He designed and constructed fountains. We know that he carried out other public works.
In Turin he also inspected and improved military installations.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
See his connection with Tartaglia, although it does not appear to have continued.
  1. Carlo Maccagni, "Contributi alla biobibliografia di G.B.
  2. Benedetti", Physis, 9 (1967), pp.337-364.
  3. A. Koyré, "Jean Baptiste Benedetti critique d'Aristote," in Études d'histoire de la pensée scientifique, (Paris, 1973), 140-66.
  4. Dizionario biografico degli italiani.
  5. G.M. Mazzuchelli, Gli scrittori d'Italia, (Brescia, 1753- ), 2, pt. 2, 817-18.
  6. Giovanni Bordiga, "Giovanni Battista Benedetti, filosofo e matematico veneziano del secolo XVI" in Atti del Reale Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti, 85, pt.2 (1925- 1926), 585-754. Paul L. Rose, The Italian Renaissance of Mathematics, (Geneva, 1975), pp. 154-6. Stillman Drake and I.E. Drabkin, Mechanics in Sixteenth-Century Italy, (Madison, Wis., 1969), pp. 31-41.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.

©1995 Al Van Helden
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