5 April 2016

Vincenzo Viviani – mathematician and scientist

Galileo follower's name lives on as moon crater

This portrait of Viviani is owned by Nice Art Gallery
Vincenzo Viviani
Forward-thinking scientist Vincenzo Viviani was born on this day in 1622 in Florence.

Viviani worked as an assistant to Galileo Galilei and after his mentor's death continued his experimental work in the field of mathematics and physics. This work was considered so important that Viviani has had a small crater on the moon named after him.

While at school in Florence, Viviani was given a scholarship to buy mathematical books by the Grand Duke Ferdinando II de' Medici. He later became a pupil of Evangelista Torricelli and worked with him on physics and geometry.

By the time he was 17 he was working as an assistant to Galileo Galilei. After Galileo’s death in 1642, Viviani edited the first edition of his teacher’s collected works.

Viviani was appointed to fill Torricelli’s position at the Accademia dell’Arte del Disegno in Florence after his death in 1647.

In 1660 Viviani conducted an experiment with another scientist, Giovanni Borelli, to determine the speed of sound by timing the difference between seeing the flash and hearing the noise of a cannon being fired from a distance.

As his reputation as a mathematician grew, Viviani started to receive job offers from abroad. As a result the Grand Duke offered him a post as court mathematician in order to keep him in Italy.

Viviani had published a book on engineering and had almost completed a major work on the resistance of solids when he died in Florence in 1703 at the age of 81.

Viviani decorated his home with an elaborate facade paying tribute to Galileo
The extraordinary façade of Vincenzo Viviani's former home
in Florence, with a bust of Galileo over the entrance
(Photo: Jebulon CC0 1.0)
Travel tip:

Palazzo dei Cartelloni, formerly known as Palazzo Viviani, in Via Sant’Antonino in Florence, has prominent inscriptions on the façade in Latin celebrating and glorifying the life and discoveries of Galileo Galilei. Viviani had these applied to the front of his home as a tribute to his mentor and there is also a bust of Galileo over the entrance. Today the building is owned by an American art institution.

Travel tip:

Galileo’s tomb in the Basilica of Santa Croce in Florence was not erected until 1737 when his remains were finally allowed a Christian burial. With the help of money left by Viviani in his will for a tomb for himself and Galileo, the scientist was reburied below a bust of himself by Giovanni Battista Foggini. Viviani’s own remains were transferred to the grave at the same time, according to his wishes.

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