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Bruno, Giordano

1. Dates
Born: Nola, Italy, 1548
Died: Rome, 17 February 1600
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 52

2. Father
Occupation: Soldier

His father was a soldier in the service of the Spanish master of Naples. It would seem probable that the family was very far from being wealthy, although the Brunos may have been a branch of the noble family of that name at Asti. I take this definitely to say they were poor.

3. Nationality
Birth: Nola, Italy
Career: Italy, England, France, Germany
Death: Rome, Italy

4. Education
Schooling: No University

No B.A. Though he obtained a Ph.D. at Toulouse, it does not sound like an earned degree.

We don't know in what manner he was educated at Nola. At about the age of eleven, he was sent to Naples "to study humane letters, logic and dialectic". He attended the public lectures of Il Sarnese, and also received private lessons in logic from Fra Teofilo da Varano, an Augustinian monk, who afterwards lectured on metaphysics in Rome.

5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Heterodox

Bruno entered the Dominican order in 1563. Even during his novitiate, a case had been drawn against him, because he had given away some images of saints, retaining for himself only a crucifix, and again because he had advised a fellow- novice to throw The Seven Delights of the Madonna aside and take rather The Lives of the Fathers or some such book. But the deposition was merely intended to terrify him, and the same day was torn up by the Prior. In 1576, however, the suspicions of his superiors took a more active turn. He was told that the Provincial was proceeding against him for fresh heresy, and was reviving the affair of his novitiate. Bruno left Naples while the process was pending, and went to Rome. His accusers did not leave him in peace, however, a process against him was threatened at Rome with 130 articles. He escaped from Rome, abandoning his Dominican order and casting its habit aside.

In Germany, Bruno got into difficulties with a Protestant pastor at Helmstedt who excommunicated him.

Soon after he retuned to Italy, he was accused of heresy against the Catholic faith, arrested at Venice on 23 May 1592, and eventually burned in Rome on 17 February 1600.

6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Occult Philosophy

7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life, Schoolmastering, Patronage
Secondary: Academia

In 1563, Bruno was admitted, as a probationer, to the monastery of St. Dominico in Naples by the Prior, Ambrogio Pasqua. He became a priest in 1572. To avoid the process against him, he left Naples in 1576.

1576-9, wandered through Italy: Bruno went to Rome first. Having escaped from Rome he spent 4-5 months at Noli, a little coasttown near Genoa, supporting himself by teaching grammar to children and the Sphere to certain gentlemen of condition. Then he went to Savona, Turin, Venice, Padua, Bergamo, and other cities, receiving hospitality in spacious, dignified monasteries or under the homelier shelter of some kindly Italian roof.

1579-91, wandered through Europe: First he went to Geneva, and Lyons.

1579-81, at Toulouse, where he gave private classes, procured his doctorate through the Dean of Arts, and then was appointed professor of philososphy at the university. (I am not listing this degree.)

1581-3, in France, he first gave public lectures, and then was offered a chair at the university (it was not an ordinary professoriate). His reputation reached the court. The king offered him an extraordinary lectureship with a salary at the Sorbonne or at the College de Cambrai.

1583-5, in England. Bruno lived as a gentlman attached to the French Embassy. He accompanied the ambassador to Court habitually.

1585, in his second visit to France he lived for the most part at his own expense and in the society of gentlemen whom he knew.

1585-91, in Germany.

1586-8, at Wittenberg, taught as university teacher or professor.

In 1588 Bruno left Wittenberg for Prague where he stayed for about 6 months. The emperor gave Bruno money for his mathesis against methematicians, but did not give him a positon.

In January 1589, Bruno matriculated at the Julian university of Brunswick, at Helmstedt.

1590-1, in Frankfort. He lectured. he also taught at Zurich. Bruno stayed with Hainzel, who had an estate at Elgg, for several months.

In 1591, returned to Italy.

Stayed in Padua for three months.

In March 1592 arrived Venice. He lived with Mocenigo and taught him.

On May 26th 1592, he was incarcerated.

8. Patronage
Types: Court, Aristrocrat

The king of France, Henry III, interested in Bruno's work , offered him an exordinary lectureship at an university of Paris with salary, and gave him letters of recommendation to the French ambassador in England.

The French ambassador in England received Bruno into the French embassy, where during the two years of his stay in England he lived comfortably. Bruno often went to court with the ambassador. In 1585, when the ambassador returned to France, Bruno went with him.

The young Duke Julius of Brunswick-Wolfenbuttel was rather kind to Bruno, and allowed him, with payment, to deliver an oration to the university of Brunswick on the death of his father, Duke Julius.

The Polish Prince, Albert Laski, let Bruno go to visit Oxford in his train.

The lord of Elgg, Hainzel, allowed him to stay in his estate for several months.

9. Technological Involvement
Types: None

10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None

In Paris, Bruno made acquaintance of Regnault, secretary to the Grand Prior of France.

In London Bruno renewed his acquaintance with Gwynne, and became friendly with John Florio, an Oxford man, who introduced Bruno at Oxford as Nolano in Second Fruites, published in 1591. Alexander Dickson, a follower and friend of Bruno's in 1583 published The Shadow of Reason, a poor imitation of Bruno's The Shadows of Ideas. Bruno said that Dickson was dear to him as his own eye. There were other adherents who remained unidentified.

Connection with Coebinelli, del Bene and their circle.

  1. Frances A.Yates, Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition, (Chicago, 1964). B783 .Z7Y3 W. Boulting, Giordano Bruno, (London, 1931). B783,Z7B7 J.J. Mclintyre, Giordano Bruno, (London, 1903). B783 .Z7M15

Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Vincenzo Spampanato, Vita di Giordano Bruno, (Messina, 1921).
  2. B783 .Z7S7 Documenti della vita di Giordano Bruno, (Florence, 1933). B783 .Z7S69

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 genealogical questions.
1995 Al Van Helden
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