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Montanari, Geminiano

1. Dates
Born: Modena, 1 June 1633
Died: Padua, 13 October 1687
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 54 2Father: Unk We are told only that Giovanni Montanari died when Geminiano was ten. Geminiano was reared by his mother. Fabroni says that the family circumstances forced Montanari to study law, the one of all the arts and sciences most devoted to gain. On the other hand Montanari mentions, in his sketch of his own life, that he was the heir to his grandmother. In a word, no clear information on the financial circumstances in which he grew up.
2. Father
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: German, Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Salzburg; MD, PD, LD
Montanari was sent to Florence when he was twenty to study law and was there for three years. Because of an unfortunate love affair with a prominent woman, he was forced to leave.
He was invited [sic] to Vienna. At Salzburg (Tiraboschi and Fabrooni say the university of Salzburg, though I had not known there was a university of Salzburg) he earned degrees in both civil and canon law. Apparently he also obtained degrees in both philosophy and medicine somewhere sometime. I accept all three degrees as doctorates because they were so mentioned in his epitaph.
In Vienna he learned the principles of Galilean science from Paolo del Buono.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Astronomy, Physics, Natural Philosophy
Subordinate: Physiology, Meteorology, Hydraulics
After Count Malvasia interested him in astronomy, he did a map of the moon for Malvasia's ephemerides of 1662. Montanari published a volume of ephemerides and astronomical tables for himself in 1665. From 1669 he was involved with Cassini's sundial in San Petronio. He studied variable stars, and carried out lots of observations of comets.
He studied capillary phenomena, and he experimented with a megaphone and with sound.
He carried on a long campaign to discredit astrology.
Montanari did experimental studies in biology--aritifical incubation and blood transfusions. (This is categorized as Physiology.)
He studied meteorological phenomena and tried using the barometer both to predict weather and to measure altitude.
He passed on an unpublished manuscript on hydraulics to his student Guglielmini.
Montanari was something of a polymath; I could also list optics because of work on atmospheric refraction.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Academia, Government
Secondary: Law
Montanari practiced law in Vienna for a time until about 1657. And when he returned to Italy he was for a time legal advisor to Prince Leopoldo de' Medici.
When he returned to Italy from Vienna he appears to have gone first to his native Modena where he was in the service of Duke Alfonso IV d'Este. Before long he went on to Florence and the service of Leopoldo, but returned to Modena in 1661 as court philosopher and mathematician (with a stipend of 840 lire). At the court he met Cornelio Malvasia, an aristocrat from Bologna, who first interested Montanari in astronomy. When Alfonso died, Montanari declined further service in the Modenese court but went instead to Bologna with Malvasia, who secured his appointment to the chair of mathematics at the University.
He apparently also enjoyed the patronage of Francesco II d'Este.
1664-78, professor of mathematics at Bologna. It is of interest that Mengoli was also professor of mathematics at Bologna during these years, but neither man is mentioned in the accounts of the other.
When a financial crisis arose in Bologna in the late 70's, Padua revived its chair of astronomy and meteorology (with an initial stipend of 700 florins, increased later to 900) for Montanari. While he was in Padua, Montanari was heavily employed by the Venetian state, especially in the organization and management of the mint.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Aristrocrat, Eccesiastic Official, City Magistrate
See the Este and Medici and Malvasia above.
When Duke Alfonso IV died in 1662, his widow (who was regent for her son) offered Montanari to continue in the court as a legal advisor. Montanari had become absorbed in astronomy, and he declined in order to go with Malvasia to Bologna. However, he did apparently return frequently to Modena to instruct the young Francesco II in mathematics and astronomy.
He dedicated his observations of the comet of 1664 to the Senate of Bologna.
He dedicated lectures delivered in the academy in Torino to the Duchess of Savoy.
In Venice, the patrician Girolamo Cornelio favored him, building an observatory for him in his (Corraro's) house in Venice, and there Montanari spent much of his time.
In Padua Card. Barberigo had a special observatory built for him.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Hydraulics, Military Engineering, Cartography, Instruments
To map the moon, Montanari developed a reticule for his telescope. He also worked on a pendulum clock. While in Bologna he made lenses which were considered excellent.
He developed what sounds like a sort of orrery, a machine he called a "Sferologio" that showed all of the movements of the heavenly bodies.
Montanari developed a level that used a telescope to achieve greater accuracy. The same telescope was equipped with a reticule intended to make it possible to measure distances directly.
He published a piece on the megaphone, which he understood could be used both to project the voice and to amplify sound arriving at the ear.
In Venice he advised strongly the diversion of all rivers away from the lagoon in order to keep it from silting up--in direct opposition to the position Castelli had taken. Montanari's advice was taken.
He published a manual for gunners and he composed an unpublished manuscript on fortification.
The Venetian state used Montanari for advice on the control of rivers and protections of the lagoon, on fortification, and on organization of the mint (which occupied much of the rest of Montanari's life).
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
In the mid 60's Montanari organized the Accademia della Traccia in Bologna, the precursor to the Accademia degli Inquieti and the Instituo. He was also a member of the Accademia gelati.
He engaged in a number of heated controversies, especially with the Jesuits and especially with Fabri.
  1. Enciclopedia italiana, 23, 720.
  2. G. Tiraboschi, Biblioteca modense, (Modena, 1781-3), 3, 254-79.
  3. P. Riccardi, Biblioteca matematica italiana, 1, 170-7.
  4. C. Bonacini, "Nel terzo centenario della nascita di Geminiano Montanari," Atti e memorie. Accademia di scienze, lettere, ed arti (Modena), 4th ser., 4 (1934), 63-76.
  5. A. Fabroni, Vitae italorum, 3 (Pisa, 1779), 64-119.
  6. Robert McKeon, "Les débuts de l'astronomie de precision," Physis, 13 (1971), 225-88; 14 (1972), 221-42; especially 13, 241-4.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. G. Campori, "Notizie e lettere inedite di Geminiano Montanari," Atti e memorie della deputazione di storia patria di Modena e Parma, 8 (1876), 65-96.
  2. C. Bonacini, "Sull'opera scientifica svolta a Modena da Geminiano Montanari," Rassegna per la storia dell'universita di Modena, Fasc. 5 (1933).
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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