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Campani, Giuseppe

1. Dates
Born: Castel San Felice (near Spoleto), 1635
Died: Rome, 28 July 1715
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 80
2. Father
Occupation: Peasant/Small Farmer
The only information is that Campani came from a peasant family.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italy
Career: Italy
Death: Italy
4. Education
Schooling: No University
Campani had no university education. He followed his two brothers to Rome, where one was a cleric and the other a clockmaker. He learned clockmaking from his brother, essentially as an apprentice it would appear. He was friendly with the Jesuit Daniello Bartoli, and there is one report that he studied optics at the Collegio Romano. However, it is clear that he was never enrolled as a student there.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic (assumed, from ample evidence)
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Instrumentation
Subordinate: Astronomy
Campani is known primarily for his optical instruments, primarily telescopes (for which he made the best composite eyepieces available and also lenses of longer focal length than any other optician), but also for microscopes.
According to Bedini he was also a pioneer in the development of the pendulum clock.
Campani, who was more than an illiterate artisan, also made some significant observations with his own instruments.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Instruments
Campani made outstanding instruments. A night clock that the two (or maybe even three) brothers made for Pope Alexander VII brought him into prominence in 1656.
In 1663-4, he invented or developed a compound eyepiece that established him as the outstanding optician of the day. Later he was able to grind lenses of longer focal length than any other artisan of the age. He also made microscopes.
There were claims that he also developed a lens grinding machine that could grind and polish lenses without the use of molds. Van Helden is convinced that such a machine never existed.
8. Patronage
Types: Eccesiastic Official, Court Official, Scientist
The silent night clock, presented to Pope Alexander VII established his reputation. The Pope and his nephew, Card. Flavio Chigi, remained some of his most important patrons.
His lenses and telescopes won the patronage of Ferdinand II of Tuscany and Prince Leopoldo.
In a relation that remains unclear to me, Card. Antonio Barberini seems to have acted as sort of Campani's PR agent in Paris. Card. Barberini had the first Campani telescope sent out of Italy, and he showed it around in Paris to win favor for Campani.
Early on, Cassini became convinced that Campani's telescopes were better than Divini's. All of Cassini's discoveries were made with Campani telescopes. Because of Cassini, Campani's telescopes equipped the Royal Observatory in Paris.
Bedini also lists the Kings of Poland, Spain, and France, and the Landgrave of Hesse as Campani's patrons.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Instruments
See above. Add that Campani ground lenses of up to about 150 feet in focal length. And he designed mountings to hold them, so that they could be used.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. S.A. Bedini, "The Optical Workshop Equipment of Giuseppe Campani," Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, 16, (1961), 18-38.
  2. Maria Luisa Righini Bonelli and Albert Van Helden, Divini and Campani, Supplement to Annali dell'Istituto e Museo de Storia della Scienza, 1981.
  3. Incredibly, Campani does not appear in Dizionario biografico degli italiani.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. S.A. Bedini, "Die Todesuhr," Uhrmaker und Goldschmied, no. 12 (1956).
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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