Paolo Antonio Foscarini (1565-1616)
Little is known about Foscarini's life. He was born in Montalto Uffugo in Calabria (southern Italy), joined the Carmelite Order, and distinguished himself as a preacher, mathematician, and theologian. He taught philosophy and theology at the university of Messina in Sicily served as the elected provincial of the Carmelite Order in Calabria. He published Ordinationes et Exercitia Quotidiana ("Daily Ordinations and Exercises") in 1607; Institutionum Omnis Generis Doctrinarum Tomis VII Comprehensarum Syntaxis ("Syntaxis of All Types of Doctrines, Contained in Seven Tomes") in 1613; and Tratato della Divinatione Naturale Cosmologica ("Treatise on Natural Cosmological Divination") in 1615.
In that year, he turned his attention to the Copernican System, and there is some evidence that he and Galileo planned a joined strategy on behalf of heliocentric cosmology. As Galileo wrote his "Letter to the Grand Duchess Christina," Foscarini published in Naples a tract entitled Lettera sopra l'Opinione de' Pittagorici, e del Copernico della Mobilità della Terra, e Stabilità del Sole, e del Nuove Pittagorica Systema del Mondo ("Letter concerning the Opinion of the Pythagoreans and Copernicus about the Mobility of the Earth and Stability of the Sun, and about the New Pythagorean System of the World"), dedicated to the General of the Carmelite Order. In this work, Foscarini defended the Copernican theory as true and defended it against charges that it conflicted with Scripture. With book in hand, Foscarini went to Rome to defend the Copernican theory personally but left Rome before Galileo's arrival there. Shortly afterward, the consultants of the Holy Office made their pronouncement on the Copernican theory, and as a result Foscarini's book was placed on the Index of Forbidden Books (3 March 1616). Foscarini died a few months later in a Carmelite monastery he had founded in his native city of Montalto.
Sources: New Catholic Encyclopedia. An English translation of Foscarini's tract on the Copernican system can be found in Richard J. Blackwell, Galileo, Bellarmine, and the Bible (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1991), pp. 217-251.
©1995 Al Van Helden