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Ricci, Ostilio

1. Dates
Born: Fermo, 1540
Died: Florence (?), 15 Jan. 1603
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 63
2. Father
Occupation: Aristocrat
Orazio Ricci (and the family of his wife Elisabetta Gualteroni) were patricians of Fermo.
No information of financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: No University
No information. Fracasetti speculates that Ricci was sent to the court of Cosimo I as a page and was educated in the court.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic (by assumption)
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Mathematics, Engineering, Instrumentation
Ricci wrote on both mathematics and military engineering, but he did not publish. The manuscripts do survive.
He left a manuscript on what he called the archimetro, a simple instrument for the measurement of inaccessible distances, heights, etc., via similar triangles. I gather that Ricci's writing on such operations was taken straight from Alberti; I did not see that the instrument was.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Engineering
Secondary: Schoolmastering
Ricci began to teach military engineering to the pages of the Grand Duke Francesco in 1580. By 1586 he was mathematician to the Grand Duke. In 1583 he also gave instruction in Euclid and Archimedes to Galileo. Fracasetti says that Ricci went on from his position in the court to be professor of mathematics in the public universities both of Pisa and of Florence. First of all, Florence had no university, though perhaps this could refer to the Academy of Design. I am convinced it is not correct in case of Pisa.
He gave lessons in perspective at the house of Bernardo Buontalenti in Florence; possibly Galileo attended some of these lessons.
From 1599 he taught at the Academy of Design.
In about 1590 Ricci was called to Ferrara to offer an opinion on the diversion of the Reno.
Promis states that Ricci was still mathematician to the Grand Duke in 1605, though something would seem necessarily to be wrong with this date.
8. Patronage
Type: Court Official
See above.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Hydraulics, Military Engineering, Instruments, Cartography
About 1590 Ricci did a report on the rivers around Bologna and Ferrara.
In 1597 he constructed fortifications at Marseille, in the conflict between Tuscany and France, and in 1597-8 he worked as a military engineer in Ferrara in the controversy between the Pope and Cesare d'Este.
He described an instrument (the archimetro) for surveying. Although I did not see any mention of surveying or cartography that Ricci himself did, I do not see how to explain the instrument without it.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. C. Promis, "Ostilio Ricci," one section of "Gl'ingegneri militari della Marca d'Ancona che operarono e scrissero dall'anno MDL all'anno MDCL," in Miscellanea di storia italiana, 6 (1865), 339-49.
  2. L. Olschki, Geschichte der neusprachlichen wissenschaftlichen Literatur, 3 vols. (Halle, 1927), 3, 141-53.
  3. T.B. Settle, "Ostilio Ricci, a Bridge between Alberti and Galileo," in Acts of the Twelfth International Congress of the History of Science, 3B (Paris, 1971), 121-6. Q101.I61
  4. Ricci does not appear in P. Riccardi, Biblioteca matematica italiana.
  5. G. Fracassetti, "Ostilio Ricci," in Biografia e ritratti di uomini illustri Piceni, ed. A. Hercolani, (Forli, 1837), 1, 97-106.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. F. Vinci, Ostilio Ricci da Fermo, Maestro di Galileo Galilei, (Fermo, 1929). As nearly as I can discover, there is no copy of this book in the United States.
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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