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Magalotti, Lorenzo

1. Dates
Born: Rome, 13 Dec. 1637
Died: Florence, 4 Mar. 1712
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 75
2. Father
Occupation: Aristocrat, Government Official
Orazio Magalotti came from an old and very distinguished Florentine family that stretched back all the way to the 12th century. Orazio was closely related to Card. Lorenzo Magalotti, who was the cousin of Urban VIII and one of Urban's most trusted advisers. Orazio's wife, and thus Lorenzo's mother, also came from a family of Florentine nobility.
Orazio Magalotti, wealthy by inheritance, was a spenthrift. He went to Rome (where Lorenzo was born) with Urban to maintain his diminishing fortune, which he did. He was named to the Roman nobility and was employed, inter alia, as a papal ambassador. Despite the father's prodigality, one has to say that Lorenzo grew up in wealthy circumstances.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Collegio Romano, Pisa
After early education at home, Magalotti was sent to the Jesuit Collegio romano at age 13 (probably in 1651 then) and to the University of Pisa in 1656.
In Pisa he studied with Viviani, one of the last pupils of Galileo, and attended the lectures of other scientists, notably Marcello Malpighi, Carlo Renaldini, and Giovanni Alfonso Borelli. I found no mention of a degree and assume that, given his rank, he did not bother with one.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
Magalotti had an uncle who was a cardinal, a brother who was an abbot, and five sisters who were nuns. For a few months in 1691 he himself was a brother in the Oratory of S. Filippo Neri, until he decided that he had no vocation for the religious life.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Scientific Communication
Subordinate: Natural Philosophy
He was the secretary of the Accademia del Cimmento and reported its activity in the Saggi di naturali esperienze fatte nell'Accademia del Cimento (Florence, 1667), essays on natural experiments mainly carried out by Borelli, Redi, and Vincenzio Viviani.
Magalotti did not carry on any significant scientific work of his own, but he was involved part of his life with the currents of scientific thought.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Personal Means, Patronage, Government
It is difficult to figure, from the existing literature, how extensive the estate that Magalotti inherited was. His extravagant father was frequently more a burden than anything else. In 1679 Magalotti also inherited something (which he found to be too little) from a brother.
However, Fermi (p. 59) is explicit in stating that Magalotti owned two estates from which he received rents. Cochrane says that he had (the time is around 1695) 47,000 scudi in land, from which he received net income of only 600 scudi; Cochrane mentions that he also held state bonds but does not give their worth. Note that in 91-3, after the faux pas with the Oratory, when he simply laid down his position at court and did not receive it back until two years later, Magalotti was indeed able to live on the proceeds of his estates.
Fermo makes it clear that Magalotti was the consumate courtier, and that once introduced into the Medicean court, late in 1659, he immediately attracted attention, especially the attention of Leopold. Already in 1660 Magalotti became the secretary of the Accademia del Cimento.
In 1661, when the family finances were in disarray (I assume because of the father's extravagance), Magalotti went to Rome to obtain an ecclesiastic benefice to increment his income. He failed, but not long thereafter he became a Gentleman of the Chamber, a position that carried a stipend of some sort.
In 1668, after the Accademia had folded, Magalotti effectively entered the service of Cosimo, the prince who became Grand Duke in 1670. At some point Magalotti became a Counsellor of State. In 1672 he was, against his will, put in charge of the Grand Duke's museum. In 1675-8 he was ambassador to the imperial court in Vienna (with a handsome stipend of course, though Magalotti found it insufficient), and he received a pension when he returned to Florence. It is obvious that the categories of Patronage and Governmental position overlap almost completely in Magalotti's case, but I cannot see how to leave either one out.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official
He was in the service of the Medici virtually all of his life. Fermi (pp. 55-6 especially) makes it clear how much Magalotti detested his servile position which he nevertheless never succeeded in leaving permanently. His only serious idea of how to leave, and it may well have been the only realistic alternative, was to enter other service, for example that of Card. Chigi. In 1691 Magalotti simply abandoned the court, without a by-your-leave, and entered the Oratory of S. Filippo Neri. It lasted only a few months. He returned to Florence and, as soon as he could, to his position at court. Fermi prints a nice poem that Magalotti composed about his lot.
In 1669 Magalotti composed for Pope Alexander VII an essay on the use of the instruments of the Accademia that were being presented to him. In recompense, the Pope gave Magalotti a so-called Spanish pension worth 50 scudi a year for six years.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Accademia del Cimento, 1560-1667; Royal Society
He was the secretary of the Accademia del Cimento, but his role in it extended only to composing the Saggi.
On a visit to London he was received into the Royal Society.
He was also a member of the Accademia della Crusca and of the Arcadia.
He carried on an extensive correspondence, at least some of which has been published (see Cochrane). Among his correspondents were Michelini, Viviani, and Redi, all of whom were Magalotti's close friends. Magalotti became the friend of Steno when he came to Florence.
In England he formed a friendship with Boyle.
  1. Stefano Fermi, Lorenzo Magalotti, scienziato e letterato: studio biografico-bibliografico-critico, (Piacenza, 1903). This is an outstanding biography.
  2. Eric Cochrane, Florence in the Forgotten Centuries, 1527-1800, (Chicago, 1973), pp. 231-313.
  3. P.A. Saccardo, "La botanica in Italia," Memorie del Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 26 (1895) and 27 (1901), 65.
  4. E. De Angeli, "Lorenzo Magalotti," in G. Arrighi et al., La scuola galileiana, (Firenze, 1979), pp. 89-109.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Pompillio Pozzetti, Lorenzo Magalotti, (Florence, 1787).
  2. Cesare Guasti, "Lorenzo Magalotti, diplomatico," Giornale storico degli archivi Toscani, (1860-1861). DG401.A674.
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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