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Magni, Valeriano

1. Dates
Born: Milan, 15 Oct. 1586 (Argellati says 1587)
Died: Salzburg, 29 July 1661
Dateinfo: Birth Uncertain
Lifespan: 75
2. Father
Occupation: Aristocrat
His father, Konstantin Magni came from an old family, the Counts of Magni. The family, which was of German origin, moved to Prague when Magni was two, and the father died not long thereafter.
Abgottspan says that the family was apparently wealthy.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: German, Czechoslovakian, Polish
Death: German
4. Education
Schooling: Religous Order
Magni was educated within the schools of the Capucin order. In view of his career and his learning, I assume the equivalent of a B.A.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
He entered the Capuchin order in 1602. In 1616 he helped to establish the Franciscan order in Poland. Later he worked in Poland to consolidate the position of the Catholic church.
In 1655 the combative Magni's long-standing feud with the Jesuits, against whom he harbored the deepest suspicions (he had incited Urban VIII, a close friend, against them) led to his being accused of heresy. He was arrested in Vienna at the end of 1655. The emperor's intervention secured his release the following February, whereupon he was sent to Salzburg, where he lived the rest of his life under virtual arrest in a monastery. The opposition of the Jesuits prevented Magni's elevation to the cardinalate.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Physics, Natural Philosophy
He was one of the pioneers with the Torricellian experiment and published an account of it, the Demonstratio ocularis (Warsaw, 1647).
Magni also worked on a general philosophy opposed to Aristotle.
Magni was first, foremost, and overwhelmingly a Catholic activist in the struggles of the counter-reformation. Although his scientific activities really existed, they were always decidedly subordinate to his religious activities.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life
Secondary: Academia, Patronage
He entered the Capuchin order in 1602, and was a preacher and instructor at Prague, Linz, and Vienna.
In 1613 he was appointed to a chair of philosophy in the Austrian capital.
He was sent to Poland in 1616 to establish the Capucins there.
During 1620's he was novice-master at Linz, and professor of philosophy at Prague.
1622-1623, Hapsburg envoy to Paris.
1624, Franciscian provincial of Bohemia.
1625, emissary of the Boheniman Capucins to Italy.
1630, representative of the Emperor at the peace talks in Italy.
During this time, from roughly 1622 to 1634, Magni functioned as the advisor to Archbishop Harrach of Prague.
After 1634 he worked in Poland to consolidate the position of Catholic church. He was much in the favor of the king, who undertook to elevate him to the Cardinalate. He was in Italy (1642-1643, 1645), then in Poland (1646-1648), and subsequently in Vienna and Cologne.
According to de Waard, in a slightly different version, Magni was named, in 1625, Prefect and Apostolic Vicar of the church's mission to Poland, Bohemia, Hungary, and Germany.
He was sent to Salzburg about 1655 as a result of his long standing quarrel with the Jesuits, and remained there under virtual arrest in a monastery for the rest of his life.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official
Magni was very close to Archbishop Harrach of Prague (later Cardinal Harrach) and functioned virtually as his deputy for an extended period. Harrach sent him on at least one mission to Rome. Obviously this relationship balances on the edge of the distinction between patronage and something else that is either employment or cooperation toward a shared goal. The sources on Magni are wholly silent about any benefits he might have received from Harrach, but knowing the practices of the period I find it impossible to believe that there were no benefits (or benefices).
Sigismund III (Argellati says Vladislaus), the King of Poland. Magni helped to establish the Franciscan order in Poland at the request of the King, and the King later tried to obtain a cardinal's hat for him. Following the death of the King, he played a decisive part in the selection of a successor.
When he was accused of heresy and arrested in 1655, the Emperor's intervention secured his release. He had earlier served the Emperor as an emisssary on more than one occasion.
Urban VIII was a close friend of Magni, and was incited by him against the Jesuits in 1631. However, I have not seen any indication of favors to Magni from Urban. Magni was employed extensively by both Gregory XV and Urban.
Magni dedicated De atheismo aristotelis, 1647. to Mersenne, but I do not see how to consider this under patronage.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
The publication of his barometer experiment aroused great controversy in 1640's.
  1. C. De Waard, L'expérience barométrique, ses antécédents et ses explications, (Thouars, 1936). QC886.W12
  2. W.E.K. Middleton, The History of the Barometer, (Baltimore, 1964), Ch.3. QC886.M62
  3. P. Riccardi, Biblioteca matematica italiana, 1.
  4. German Abgottspon, P. Valerianus Magni, Kapuziner (1586-1661), (Olten, 1939).
  5. Filippo Argellati, Bibliotheca scriptorum mediolanensium, 2 vols. (Milan, 1745), 2, 833-8, 2003.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Dionisio da Genova, Bibliotheca scriptorum ordinis minorum capuccinorum, (1680), p. 460 (or p. 306).
  2. Nicolao Lucensi and Ludovico de Salice, "Valerianus Magni mediolanensis ordinis fratrum minorum capuccinorum provinciae Boemo-Austriacae provincialis et missionarii apostolica vita et gesta," in Annales capuccinorum provinciae Bohemo-Moraviae, 4, 330-426.
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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