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Cesalpino, Andrea

1. Dates
Born: Arezzo, 5 June 1525. Old sources as well as DSB say 1519. Viviani documents the necessity that this be an error, and establishes 1525 to my satisfaction. DBI says 1524 or 25, and is explicit in rejecting 1519.
Died: Rome, 15 March 1603.
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 78
2. Father
Occupation: Artisan
Giovanni de Andrea Cesalpino was a mason.
Viviani, noting that the father was able to send a son to the university, doubts that he was by then a simple mason. Let me add that Cesalpino inherited what appears to have been considerable property in Arezzo. I do not see how we can avoid concluding that the circumstances were prosperous.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Pisa, M.D., Ph.D.
He studied philosophy and medicine at Pisa, where he received his M.D. and Ph.D. (in the typical Italian mode) in 1551. He studied under Vesalius, Colombo, Guido Guidi, and Luca Ghini.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Heterodox
Cesalpino's philosophical views tended toward naturalism. He was frequently denounced for heretical ideas, though he was careful and was therefore never prosecuted.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Botany, Physiology, Anatomy
Subordinate: Natural Philosophy, Medicine, Mineralogy
Cesalpino's principal contribution to science lies in botany. He wrote the first true texbook of botany , De plantis libri XVI (1583), elaborating for the first time a system of plants based on a unified and coherent group of notions.
His most important medical studies concern the anatomy and physiology of the motion of the blood. He gave a good decription of the cardiac valves and of the pulmonary vessels connected to the heart, as well as of the minor circulation.
In Quaestionum peripateticarum (1571) he set out his philosophical views, which formed the framework of his medical and botanical works and which show that he was a follower of Aristotle, although he partially reformed the latters's theories.
He published De metallis in 1596.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Patronage, Medicine
Secondary: Personal Means
Professor of Simples and director of the botanical garden at Pisa, 1556-1570 and then Professor of Medicine until 1591.
He must have practised medicine. He lived in Pisa from 1551 to 55 on something. Cosimo valued him as a physician. In Rome later he was physician to Philip Neri, and it is reported that he generally applied himself to medicine during the period in Rome. While there he published Speculum artis medicae hippocraticum, 1601, with medical observations drawn from his practice, and his final work, from the Roman period, was Praxis universae artis medicae, 1602-3.
Physician to the Cavalieri di Santo Stefano in 1582.
There were tensions within the university at Pisa by 1589; apparently Cesalpino was accused of spreading heretical teachings. And the Grand Duke appointed another physician to the university with a salary considerably higher than Cesalpino's. Cesalpino took umbrage and actively sought an appointment in Rome; this is documented. He was physician to Pope Clement VIII, and professor at the Sapienza, 1592-1603, with a total salary of 1000 scudi (600 from the city and 400 from the Pope).
There is documentary evidence that he held a fair bit of property in Arezzo.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official, Scientist, Aristrocrat
He was a client (or personal physician) to Cosimo I, and following him to both Francesco I and Ferdinando I. He dedicated works to both Francesco I and Ferdinand I.
In 1570 he was collecting plants in Tuscany on the orders of Pius V who intended to establish a botanical garden in Rome.
In 1592 he was called to Rome as physician to Pope Clement VIII, and, simultaneously, professor at the Sapienza with a combined stipend of 1000 scudi. He dedicated De metallis and another work to Clement.
Marini is explicit in stating that Mercati engineered Cesalpino's appointment in Rome.
Bishop Tornabuoni is described as his patron. He dedicated the second part of Ars medica to Card. Petro Aldobrandini. (This work was published after Cesalpino's death, though in the same year, 1603. He appears to have composed the dedication.)
He dedicated Daemonum investigatio to Giovanni de' Tonsi, a Milanese patrician, and he dedicated De saporibus and later another work to Baccio Valore, a Florentine patrician.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
He was in close communication with his former student and friend Michele Mercati. He corresponded with Aldrovandi and with botanists abroad such as Belon and L'Obel.
  1. G.P. Arcieri, The circulation of the blood and Andrea Cesalpino of Arezzo, (New York, 1945).
  2. A. Hirsch, Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Aerzte aller Zeiten und Voelker (3rd ed., Munich, 1962), 1, 866-8.
  3. P.A. Saccardo, "La botanica in Italia," Memorie del Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 26 (1895), 49 and 27 (1901), 30.
  4. Dizionario biografico degli italiani, 24, 122-5.
  5. Pietro Capparoni, Profili bio-bibliografici di medici e naturalisti celebri italiani dal sec. XV al sec. XVII, 2 vols. (Rome, 1925-28), 1, 24-7. In the copy I have, vol. 1 is from the second ed, (1932) and vol. 2 from the first (1928). I gather that pagination in the two editions is not identical.
  6. U. Viviani, Vita ed opere di Andrea Cesalpino, (Arezzo, 1923).
  7. (This work, or perhaps a slightly different version of it, appeared also in Rivista di medecina legale e medecina degli infortuni nel lavoro, 1915). This appears to me definitely to be the leading source on Cesalpino.
  8. Gaetano Luigi Marini, Degli archiatri pontifici, 2 vols. (Roma, 1784), 1, 485-6.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. C. Ceconi, "Andrea Cesalpino, Physiologist, Naturalist, Philosopher," Revista di storia critica di scienze mediche e naturali, 3 (1912).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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1995 Al Van Helden
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