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BORELLI, GIOVANNI ALFONSO(b. Naples, Italy,
January 1608; d. Rome, Italy, 31 December 1679),
astronomy, epidemiology, mathematics, physiology
(iatromechanics), physics, volcanology.
1674, she launched her Accademia Reale. Borelli
appeared twice before it in 1675—in February when
he spoke on the construction of the triremes of the
ancients and again in April when he discussed Etna,
this time including considerations resulting from a
climb to the rim of the volcano in 1671. Christina
also patronized another, more scientific group, known
variously as the Accademia dell'Esperienza or the
Accademia Fisica-matematica. It was organized in
July of 1677 under the leadership of Giovanni
Giustino Ciampini, who was also connected with the
Giornale de' Letterati. Its membership included Borelli
and an old friend and disciple, Lucantonio Porzio.
But recognition apparently did not entail too much
tangible support, and Borelli began to look farther
afield for that. Cassini had been in Paris for several
years and had become a member of the Royal Academy
of Sciences. In 1676 Borelli wrote him complaining
of the extreme circumstances to which he had
been reduced by his enemies and the lack of quiet
which was interfering with the completion of his
works; he hinted that he too would like to serve the
Most Christian King. By February 1677, negotiations
were under way. A year later he had hopeful news,
but he wrote that he was too old to travel to Paris.
Instead he would send his work on the motion of
animals to be printed there with a dedication to the
king. In May of 1678 he still hoped for his election
to the Royal Academy, but since he did not wish to
trust his only copy of De motu animalium to the mails,
he wrote that he needed time to have another made.
Actually it is unlikely that he ever was elected to
the Academy. A short time previously he had been
robbed of all his possessions by a servant. Lacking
adequate means, he had accepted the hospitality of
the fathers of the Casa di S. Pantaleo and had entered
their house on 13 September 1677. For the last two
years of his life he taught mathematics at its Scuole
Pie. Apparently he never sent a copy of his manuscript
to Paris. Then in late 1679 Queen Christina
agreed to bear the printing costs and Borelli dedicated
the De motu animalium to her. He died in December,
however, and his benefactor at the convent,
P. Giovanni di Gesù, accepted the responsibility of
seeing this last and most important work through the
press. Volume I, treating of external motions, or the
motions produced by the muscles, appeared in 1680.
Volume II, dealing with internal motions, such as the
movements of the muscles themselves, circulation,
respiration, the secretion of fluids, and nervous activity,
appeared in late 1681. A simple stone in the wall
of the Church of S. Pantaleo recalls: Joh. Alphonso
Borellio, neapolitano, philosopho medico et
matematico, clarissimo, . . .
I. ORIGINAL WORKS.
Borelli's major writings are
Discorso . . . nel quale si manifestano le falsità e gli errori
contenuti nella difesa del problema geometrico risoluto dal
R. D. Pietro Emmanuele (Messina, 1646); Delle cagioni
delle febbri maligne di Sicilia negli anni 1647 e 1648, . . .
Ed in fine si tratta della digestione di cibi con nuovo metodo
(Cosenza, 1649); Euclides restitutus (Pisa, 1658); Apollonius
Pergaeus Conicorum lib. v. vi. vii. paraphraste Abalphato
Asphahanensi nunc primum editi. Additus in calce Archimedis
assumptorum liber, ex codicibus Arabicis m. ss. . . .
Abrahamus Eccellensis . . . latinos reddidit (Florence, 1661);
Euclide rinnovato (Bologna, 1663); Del movimento della
cometa apparsa il mese di Dicembre 1664 (Pisa, 1665);
Theoricae mediceorum planetarum ex causis physicis deductae
(Florence, 1666); De vi percussioni liber (Bologna,
1667); Risposta . . . alle considerazioni fatte sopra alcuni
luoghi del suo libro della forza della percossa del R. P. F.
Stefano de gl' Angeli (Messina, 1668); De motionibus naturalibus
a gravitate pendentibus, liber (Regio Iulio [Reggio
di Calabria], Bologna, 1670); Istoria et meteorologia incendii
Aetnaei anni 1669 . . . accessit. Responsio ad censuras Rev.
P. Honorati Fabri contra librum auctoris De vi percussionis
(Regio Iulio [Reggio di Calabria], 1670); Elementa conica
Apollonii Pergaei, et Archimedis opera, nova et breviori
methodo demonstrata (Rome, 1679); De motu animalium
. . . Opum Posthumum. Pars prima (Rome, 1680), Pars
altera (Rome, 1681); and “Discorso sopra la laguna di
Venezia. Relazione sopra lo stagno di Pisa. Supplemento
da aggiungersi alla proposizione seconda del secondo libro
del P. Castelli, ecc.,” in Raccolta d'autori che trattano del
moto dell'acque, IV (Florence, 1765), 15-63.
Shorter tracts and less important works appeared in
various issues of Giornale de' Letterati; Borelli, et al., Tetras
anatomicarum epistolarum de lingua, et cerebro (Bologna,
1665); Marcello Malpighi, Opera posthuma (London,
1697); and Giovanni Targione Tozzetti, Atti e memorie
inedite dell' Accademia del Cimento, 3 vols. (Florence,
The collections of the libraries of Florence, especially
the Galileiana of the Biblioteca Nazionale, contain a great
deal of unpublished correspondence to, from, and relating
to Borelli. Other Italian libraries, and perhaps French and
English ones, must still have a great deal of unrecognized
and unpublished Borelli materials. The following have
made many Borelli letters available: Howard B. Adelmann,
Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology, 5 vols.
(Ithaca, N. Y., 1966); Giovanni Arenaprimo di Montechiaro,
“Gio: Alfonso Borelli a Marcello Malpighi,” in
Studi di medicina legale e varii . . . in onore di Giuseppe
Ziino ecc. (Messina, 1907), pp. 467-475; Vincenzo Busacchi
and Giordano Muratori, “Giovanni Alfonso Borelli e lo
Studio di Bologna,” in Bollettino delle scienze mediche
[Società di Bologna], 136 (1964), 86-90; Modestino Del
Gaizo, Alcune lettere di Giovanni Alfonso Borrelli, dirette
una al Malpighi, le altre al Magliabechi (Naples, 1886);
“Contributo allo studio della vita e delle opere di Giovanni
Alfonso Borrelli,” Atti dell'Accademia Pontaniana, Napoli,