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Ricci, Michelangelo

1. Dates
Born: Rome, 30 Jan. 1619
Died: Rome, 12 May 1682
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 63
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
All that is said is that Prospero Ricci came originally from Como.
It is said that the family lived in modest circumstances but made every sacrifice to educate the children. I take this at face value; the family was poor.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: No University
I am puzzled. The information about the family, and the further information that Ricci studied theology and canon law because he had to have a career to support himself both imply university study and a degree. Nevertheless no university and no degree has been mentioned.
It is said that he was a student of Castelli in mathematics. Hoffmann says that he was Torricelli's student.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
Although he was never ordained, he served the papacy and was made a çardinal by the pope in 1681.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics
His only extant mathematical work is a 19-page printed booklet entitled Geometrica exercitatio (Rome, 1666). His other mathematical contributions, contained in his numerous letters, include his study of spirals (1644), and his investigation of curves (1674). Nevertheless, he was known across Europe as an excellent mathematician, held by some to be the best mathematician in Italy in his generation.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Church Life
It is stated that about 1650 Ricci received a prebend which gave him sufficient income.
He served the papal court in various capacities and was made a Cardinal in 1681 by Pope Innocent XI.
8. Patronage
Types: Eccesiastic Official, Court Official
Pope Innocent XI made him a Cardinal in 1681. He served at the papal court in various capacities under three successive Popes, Alexander VII, Clement IX, and Innocent XI. The pressure of his duties took him away from mathematics.
Ricci dedicated his Exercitatio to Abbot St. Gradi, Prefect of the Vatican library. Ricci appears to treat the Abbot as a peer who was also interested in mathematics, so that I am not inclined to see this dedication was part of patronage.
Ricci corresponded heavily with Leopolod de' Medici, who consulted him on everything concerned with the Accademia del Cimento, including its Saggi.
Queen Christina of Sweden, in whose circle Ricci eventually moved, was apparently responsible for his elevation to the cardinalate.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
He was a member of the school of Galileo, although not a direct disciple. His teacher was Benedetto Castelli. Torricelli was a close friend of his and exerted a marked influence on his geometrical researches.
His extensive correspondence with both Italian and foreign scholars brought him considerable contemporary fame. Through such correspondence ha participated in the activities of the Accademia del Cimento, particularly in the final editing of its Saggi (1667). He also served as an editor of the Giornale dei letterati, which was founded in Rome in 1668.
He corresponded with Torricelli, and he knew Sluse when he studied in Rome.
His correspondence is published in the Bulletino di bibliografia e storia delle scienze matematiche e fisiche, 18 and in Caverni, 5, and in other places.
Ricci belonged to the group that gathered around Queen Christina in Rome.
  1. Josef E.Hofmann, "Uber die 'Exercitatio geometrica' des M.A.
  2. Ricci," Centaurus, 9 (1964), 139-93. Q1.C39
  3. G. Tiraboschi, Storia della letteratura italiana, 9 vols., new ed. (Firenze, 1793), 8, 262-4.
  4. P. Riccardi, Biblioteca matematica italiana, 1, 370; 2, 139.
  5. R. Caverni, Storia del metodo sperimentale in Italia, 6 vols. reprint ed. (New York, 1972), 5, 431-4, 457-61.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Amadeo Agostini, "Massimi e minimi nella corrispondenza di E.
  2. Torricelli con M. Ricci," in Atti del IV Congresso dell'Unione maematica italiana, 2, (Rome, 1953), 629-32.
  3. Marco Guarnacci, Vita et res gestae pontificum Romanorum, 1, (Rome, 1751).
  4. A. Fabroni, Vitae italiorum doctrina excellentium, 2 (Pisa, 1778), 200-21. G. Maugain, Étude sur l'évolution intellectuelle de l'Italie de 1657 à 1750 environ, (Paris, 1909).
  5. G. Moroni, Dizionario di erudizione storico-ecclesiastica, 57 (Venice, 1852), 177.
  6. J.-B. Biot and Fr. Lefort, eds. Commercium epistocisum J. Collins et aliorum, (Paris, 1856), pp. 274-6. (search for this under Collins) L. Tenca, "Michel Angelo Ricci," Memorie Accademia Patavina, Class. Sci. Mat. Nat., 68 (1955-6), (called by Hoffmann Sonderabdruck), 18f.
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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