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Biringuccio, Vannoccio

1. Dates
Born: Sienna, 20 october,1480
Died: Rome, August, 1537
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 57
2. Father
Occupation: Government Official
Paolo di Vannoccio was a builder and public servant in the Sienese office in charge of roads and bridges.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Siena,Italy
Career: Italy, Germany
Death: Rome, Italy
4. Education
Schooling: No University
He traveled as a young man throughout Italy and Germany, inspecting metallurgical operations, and working in them. It is clear that he had no university education.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Metallurgy, Mineralogy, Engineering
Subordinate: Chemistry
His reputation derived from a single work, Pirotechnia, published posthumously in 1540. The work, as the first printed comprehensive account of the fire-using arts, was a prime source on many practical aspects of inorganic chemistry. It is full of mineralogy as well as metallurgy.
One source asserts that Biringuccio discusses the amalgamation process for refining silver for the first time. This would place him before Barba and other Spaniards.
His book contained a great deal about the manufacture of gunpowder and about artillery. He also had practical experience in the employment of artillery. This is not the standard military engineering of the 16th century, but I do not see how I can omit it.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Government
Secondary: City Magistrate
After running an iron mine and forge at Boccheggiano for Pandolfo Petrucci, the ruler of Siena, he was forced to leave when Petrucci was overthrown.
At some point about here he was in charge of a silver mine in Carinthia (until 1508).
He was in Milan for a time and then in Ferrara in the service of Alfonso d'Este.
When he returned to Siena with Petrucci, he was appointed (by Petrucci) to a post with arsenal at Siena and in 1513 director of the mint.
In 1516, after the fall of the Petrucci family, he was exiled again. He returned with the Petrucci once more in 1523, and was exiled again in 1526. In the fighting in 1526 at Siena he commanded the artillery. Thereafter he served the Venetian and Florentine republics, and cast cannon and built fortifications for the Este and Farnese families. At some point he also served Pier Luigi Farnese, Duke of Parma.
In 1531, with a new reconciliation he returned to Siena as senator and as architect and director of building construction at the Duomo.
In 1534 he was appointed head of the papal foundry and director of papal munitions and captain of the papal artillery.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official
Petrucci family. See above.
Este Family. See above.
Farnese family. See above.
Papal connection. See above.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Military Engineering, Architecture, Metallurgy
See above means of support.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. "Vannoccio Biringuccio" in Gli scienziati italiani dall'inizio del medio evo ai nostri giorni, 1, (Rome, 1921), pt. 1, pp. 20-4.
  2. Aldo Mieli, "Vannoccio Bringuccio e il metodo sperimentale", Isis, 2 (1914), pp.90-99.
  3. Dizionario biografico degli italiani.
  4. G.M. Mazzuchelli, Gli scrittori d'Italia, (Brescia, 1753- ), 2, pt. 2, 1262-3.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Otto Johnnsen, "Vannoccio Biringuccio" in Gunther Bugge, ed., Das Buch der grossen Chemiker, I, Berlin, 1929, pp.74-84.
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
Last updated
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