5 April 2020

5 April

Vincenzo Gioberti - philosopher and politician


Writings helped bring about unification of Italy

Vincenzo Gioberti, a philosopher regarded as one of the key figures in the Italian unification, was born on this day in 1801 in Turin.  He became prime minister of Sardinia-Piedmont in December 1848, albeit for only two months.  Although he was an associate of the republican revolutionary Giuseppe Mazzini - and was arrested and then exiled as a result - he did not agree with Mazzini’s opposition to the monarchy and was not an advocate of violence.  However, he was staunchly in favour of a united Italy, particularly because of his conviction that Italians represented a superior race, intellectually and morally, and that by pulling together as one nation they could assert a profound influence on civilisation that would benefit the world.  Gioberti’s book Del Primato civile e morale degli Italiani (The civic and moral primacy of the Italians), which detailed examples from history to underline his theories about Italian supremacy, is said to have helped give momentum to the unification campaign.  Born into a family of modest means, Gioberti studied diligently, obtained the baccalaureate in theology and in 1825 was ordained a priest.  Read more…

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Vincenzo Viviani – mathematician and scientist


Galileo follower's name lives on as moon crater

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.  Read more…

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Giovanni dalle Bande Nere - condottiero


Medici soldier who fathered Cosimo I de' Medici

Giovanni dalle Bande Nere, the military leader regarded as the last of the great Italian condottieri, was born on this day in 1498 in Forlì, in what is now the Emilia-Romagna region.  The condottieri were professional soldiers, mercenaries who hired themselves out to lead the armies of the Italian city-states and the Papacy in the frequent wars that ensued from the Middle Ages through to the Renaissance.  Giovanni spent the greater part of his military career in the service of Pope Leo X, the Medici pope. Indeed, he was a Medici himself, albeit from a then secondary branch of the family. Baptised Ludovico, he was the son of Giovanni de’ Medici, also known as Il Popolano and a great-nephew of Cosimo the Elder, the founder of the dynasty.  It was his mother, Caterina Sforza, the powerful daughter of the Duke of Milan, who renamed him Giovanni in memory of his father, her fourth husband, who died when the boy was just five months old. He became Giovanni dalle Bande Nere much later, in 1521, when he added black stripes to his military insignia in a show of mourning for Pope Leo X.  His upbringing brought out the worst aspects of his character.  Read more…


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