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Zabarella, Jacopo [Iacopo, Giacomo]

1. Dates
Born: Padua, 5 September 1533
Died: Padua, 25 October 1589
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 56
2. Father
Occupation: Aristocrat
Giulio Zabarella, the descendent of one of Padua's oldest and most distinguished families, bore the title of palatine count, a title that his oldest son (Jacopo) inherited.
Jacopo inherited as well a considerable fortune; I infer that the family was wealthy.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Padua, Ph.D.
He studied logic and natural philosophy in Padua, receiving the doctoral degree in 1553.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic, Heterodox
Zabarella was accustomed to exercise great freedom of thought in matters of religion. Following Pomponazzi, he believed in the mortality of the soul. His final book, De rebus naturalibus, which rejected the Thomistic argument for the existence of God from the fact of motion, was denounced to the Inquisition, which however cleared it.
For all that Zabarella is said also to have been a man of extraordinary devotion who spent hours every day in prayer.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Natural Philosophy
Subordinate: Astrology
Zabarella was a major figure in the revival of Aristotelian philosophy in the 16th and 17th centuries. He was closely tied to the medical tradition of Padua and took a naturalistic approach to Aristotle. In natural philosophy he was thoroughly empirical in his approach; he was especially concerned to understand the biological world and thus paid scant attention to the use of mathematics. Zabarella was and continues to be known primarily as a commentator on method.
It is clear that he was deeply involved in astrology.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Personal Means
Secondary: Academia
We are told that Zabarella inherited a considerable fortune which he took care to preserve. There is no evidence of employment of any sort between 1553 when he graduated and 1564 when he was first appointed to Padua. Nevertheless he continued to live in Padua (in his whole life he apparently never ventured farther than Venice), where he had a house. Immediately upon graduation he was admitted to the Sacred College of Philosophers and Physicians of Padua, a quasi-administrative body in the university, if I understand. Several times the city of Padua sent him as its representative in causes before the Senate in Venice. (I saw nothing to indicate whether he received compensation from the city.) In 1557, 1573, and 1580 he organized academies that met in his house. All of this powerfully suggests personal means.
In 1564 he was appointed to the chair in logic in Padua at a salary of 60 florins, and in 1569 to the more lucrative chair of natural philosophy (initially at 130 florins and after his final raise at 410 florins), which he held until his death. Possible there was a hiatus of three years in the '70's.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, Eccesiastic Official
Near 1578 Zabarella received a lucrative offer from Stephen Bathory, King of Poland, to teach at Cracow. In response (Edwards, pp. 52-3) Zabarella dedicated his Logic to the King. In the dedication he said that he had already sent the manuscript to the printer without a dedication when the invitation arrived, and that he thereupon dedicated it to the King. There is a story (apparently without evidence to back it) that the King knighted Zabarella in response.
He dedicated his commentary on Aristotle's Posterior Analytics to Filippo Mocenigo, Archbishop of Nicosia and a member of the prominent Venetian family.
He dedicated De doctinae ordine apologia, 1584, to Card. Valiero, Bishop of Verona.
He dedicated De naturalis scientiae constitutione, 1586, to Card. Pereto, nephew of Sixtus V.
He dedicated De rebus naturalibus, 1589, to Sixtus himself. One may question why a wealthy aristocrat like Zabarella was in the dedications game, but dedications to cardinals and popes make sense to someone in trouble with the Inquisition.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: None
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
From immediately after his degree until his death Zabarella was a member of the Sacred College of Philosophers and Physicians of Padua, a body with some official status for the university.
He was one of the organizers of the Accademia dell'Elevati in Padua, 1557-60.
Again in 1573-5 he was an organizer of the academy of the Rinascenti--a literary and musical academy.
In 1580 he organized a third, degli Stabili, a literary one. It lasted until 1614, beyond Zabarella's death. Note that all three of these academies met in his house.
  1. William F. Edwards, The Logic of Iacopo Zabarella, Columbia University dissertation, 1960, pp. 1-82. This is by far the most detailed account of Zabarella's life that I found.
  2. Most of the fairly extensive literature concentrates exclusively on his logic and methodology.
  3. Antonio Poppi, La dottrina della scienza in Giacomo Zabarella, (Padua, 1972).
  4. Cesare Vasoli, Studi sulla cultura del Rinascimento, (Manduria, 1968), pp. 308-42.
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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