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Michelini, Famiano

1. Dates
Born: Rome, 31 August 1604
Died: Florence, 20 January 1665
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 61
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Religous Order
Michelini was sent by his order, the Brothers of the Pious Schools, or Piarists, to Genoa for his education. He studied mathematics with Santini. There is no mention of a university or of a degree, but I assume the equivalent of a B.A.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
At the age of 15 (Targioni-Tozzetti says 1621, which would have been the age of 17), Michelini entered the Piarists as a lay brother. The congregation was raised to the status of a religious order in 1621, with the purpose of providing free schooling, including mathematics, to the poor.
Michelini was ordained in 1636.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Medicine, Hydraulics
Although he did not have a medical degree, Michelini was interested in medicine, to which he applied the experimental method and helped to pave the way for Redi's experiments and Borelli's theories. Michelini urged the use of citrus juices and control of weight.
In 1664 he published Della direzione de' fiumi, a subject to which he had given major attention all his life.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life, Patronage, Academia
Secondary: Schoolmastering
In 1629 Michelini was sent to Florence where his order planned to open its first schools. He became acquainted with Galileo there. In addition to teaching in his order's schools, he gave private lessons in mathematics.
In 1635 he was called to teach mathematics at the court, especially to the brothers of Ferdinando II, Gian Carlo and Leopoldo. Apparently he also instructed Ferdinando in astronomy. For the most part he lived at the court, following it around Tuscany.
In 1648 he received the chair in mathematics at Pisa when it was vacated by the death of Renieri. He left the chair in 1655. There is strong evidence that he lost the favor of Ferdinando and was forced to leave.
He was a pro-vicar to a bishop in Sicily. When the bishop died, Michelini returned to Florence without resources. He appears to have been supported by the patronage of Prince Leopoldo, who financed the publication of his book on hydraulics.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official
See the bishop in Sicily above.
Targioni-Tozzetti presents evidence that Michelini lost the favor of the Grand Duke and was forced to leave his chair in Pisa. I found no serious evidence to explain the loss of favor, but recall that Michelini was charged before the Inquisition with Galileo's heresy, and I wonder if something connected with that was not central. I have also noticed that Paolo del Buono also left Florence in 1655. He and Michelini were at one point in charge of works along the Arno; is it possible that something went wrong there? When Michelini came back to Florence from Sicily, he was destitute. T-T prints letters (I gather first published by Fabroni) to Leopoldo in the early 60's. They are unique among letters I have seen in showing the flip side of patronage. Michelini was clearly in a miserable state and could expect no improvement if he did not win back the favor of the Grand Duke. He begged Leopoldo for support. Apparently Leopoldo did gain the Grand Duke's permission for Michelini to dedicate his Direzione to him. Note however that Leopoldo did not incorporate Michelini into his Accademia del Cimento.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology, Hydraulics
At least during an epidemic Michelini ministered to the sick. Certainly he gave medical advice in general and composed Discourses on Health, which remained unpublished. Especially he advised the use of citrus juices as a medicine.
Through most of his career in Florence Michelini was consulted on issues of hydraulics, such as the courses of the Chiana and Arno rivers and problems of drainage of the plain at Pisa. He advised boxes or bulkheads filled with stone to protect the banks of rivers. He also gave advice about the silting up of the lagoon at Venice.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
As the tutor to Leopoldo, Michelini was the focus of the group around the prince that was the prototype of the later Accademia del Cimento.
Later on he was in controversy with Torricelli on issues of hydraulics.
  1. G. Targioni-Tozzetti, Notizie degli aggrandimenti delle scienze fisiche accaduti in Toscana nel corso di anni 60 del secolo XVII, (Firenze, 1780), 1, 188-204, 365. T-T prints (I gather not for the first time) very interesting letters. G. Giovannozzi, Scolopi galileiani (Publicazioni dell'Osservatorio Ximeniana dei PP. Scolopi, no. 124), (Firenze, 1917).
  2. P. Riccardi, Biblioteca matematica italiana, 1, 156-7.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. G. Giovannozzi, "Un capitolo inedito della storia del metodo sperimentale in Italia di R. Caverni," Atti della Pontificia accademia romana dei nuove lincei, 71, (1918), 171-89.
  2. A. Neri, "Il padre staderone," Rivista europea, n.s., 23 (1881), 756-64.
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
Last updated
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