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Lavanha, Joao Baptista

1. Dates
Born: Madrid, 1550
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
No information, though it is said that the family was of elevated position.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Portugues
Career: Spanish
Death: Spanish. Note that the family were converted Jews.
4. Education
Schooling: No University
It is reported that the King of Portugal sent him to Rome to complete his education, though there is no good evidence for the story. No mention of a university or a degree.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Jew
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Navigation, Cartography
Subordinate: Geography, Mathematics
7. Means of Support
Primary: Government, Patronage
1582: Soon after Spain absorbed Portugal, Philip II, concerned that navigation was not sufficiently cultivated in Spain, established the Academy of Mathematics, and appointed Lavanha as the first professor, with a salary of 400 ducats.
Lavanha was mathematical tutor to the prince.
Lavanha dedicated a translation of Euclid to Philip in 1584. Later he presented the King with the manuscript of his Regimiento nautico, which he later dedicated to Philip in its published form.
1587: appointed principal engineer of Portugal, with a salary of 200 cruzados.
1587: From this date served as chief engineer to Philip. This may be identical with the previous item from another.
8. Patronage
Type: Court
See above.
When Lavanha's sons entered orders, they were accompanied in the ceremony by the King (Philip IV) and Queen.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Navigation, Cartography, Instruments
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. map of Aragon (1615-18), for which he received a large reward.
  2. 1591: Principal cosmographer to the king; entered the office only in 1596 when the incumbent died. Apparently a salary of 40,000 reales. At the same time he assumed the chair of mathematics in Lisbon at 20,000 reales. This chair was to teach mathematics to sailors and pilots and was thus not at a university. Lavanha was to inspect maps and instruments used in navigation, supervise the construction of astrolabes, quadrants, and compasses, and to examine aspiring pilots, cartographers, and instrument makers. He devised a new instrument for navigation himself.
  3. 1618: pricipal chronicler of the realm, at 100,000 reales.
  4. He also left behind a manuscript compensium of geography.
  5. Sources: José Maria Lopez Piñero, et al., Diccionaria historico de la ciencia moderna en España, 2 vols. (Barcelona: Ediciones Peninsula, 1983). Jose Maria Lopez Pinero, Ciencia y tecnica en la sociedad espanola de los siglos XVI y XVII, (Barcelona: Labor, 1979).
  6. M. Fernandez de Navarrete, Disertacion sobre la historia de la nautica y de las mathematicas, (Madrid, 1846).
  7. Sousa Viterbo, Trabalhos nauticos dos Portugueses nos sécolos XVI e XVII, (Lisbon, 1898), pp. 171-83. This work prints all of the official documents of his appointments.
  8. Felipe Picatoste y Rodriguez, Apuntes para una biblioteca cientifica española del siglo XVI, (Madrid, 1891).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Armando Cortesao, Cartografia e cartografos portugueses dos sécolos XVI e XVII, 2, (Lisbon, 1935), 294-361. Note that this work is available in the Lilly.
  2. Jose Augusto Saqnchez Perez, Monografia sobre Juan Bautista Lavaña, (Madrid, Academia de Ciencias Exactas, Fisicas y Naturales, 1934).
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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