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Mathematical Treasure: Academic Lectures by Torricelli

Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University)

This is the frontispiece and title page for Evangelista Torricelli’s Academic Lectures published in 1715. Torricelli (1608-1647) was an Italian mathematician, physicist and natural philosopher. A declared Galilean, he is known for several accomplishments in mathematics, perhaps most notably the discovery of a solid that has a finite volume but an infinite surface area, “Torricelli’s trumpet.” The frontispiece displays a portrait of the author at his prime. Its caption exclaims: 

Behold [here] flourishes another Galileo

Evangelista Torricelli

Mathematician and Philosopher for
his most serene majesty the Duke of Hetruria

He died in the Year of our Lord 1647, age 40.

Hetruria is modern day Tuscany. Torricelli was appointed by the Duke to the position of Professor of Mathematics at the Academy to replace the deceased Galileo.

This collection contains twelve previously unpublished lectures by Torricelli. They were given at “the studiolo,” a special salon within the Duke’s palace for intellectual encounters, and at the Academy of Crusca. This Academy for scholars and linguists was founded in 1582 to preserve and promote the Tuscan language. Its symbol, as shown on the title page, is a flour sieve denoting the straining out of intellectual and linguistic impurities. In a rather “tongue in cheek” manner, the Academy was established around the theme of a bakery. It remains an important intellectual institution even today. The Preface of this book contains a good bibliography and survey of the work of Evangelista Torricelli written by his friend and editor, Tommaso Bonaventura.

These images are supplied through the cooperation of The Treasures of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Library Collection. The individual images were photographed by Mr. Sean Linehan.

See images of Torricelli’s Academic Lectures from the University of Pennsylvania Libraries.

Index to Mathematical Treasures


Frank J. Swetz (The Pennsylvania State University), "Mathematical Treasure: Academic Lectures by Torricelli," Convergence (January 2015)