Davide Martino (University of Cambridge)

The serie “Taliking About Science” of the EUI History of Science Working Group continues with a new presentation.

On Wednesday 16th June 2021, 15pm (CEST), Davide Martino (University of Cambridge) will present on the practical traditions of early modern hydraulic philosophy.  

‘Machina Augustana’ (Georg Loscher’s 1535 hydraulic machine at the Mauerberg, Augsburg).
Woodcut from G. Cardano, De subtilitate libri XXI (2nd edn; Basel: Ludovicus Lucius, 1554).
Munich, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (online).

In addition to physics, astronomy, and optics, Galileo and his disciples explored a wide variety of disciplines including hydraulics, the science of waters. The 1628 treatise by Benedetto Castelli, Della misura dell’acque correnti [Of the measure of running waters] has often been ‘considered to be the beginning of modern hydraulics’ (Drake 2008). Castelli, however, did not write in a void. Ancient Greek and Roman sources remained important reference points for him: he often dismissed the conclusions of one ancient authority only to endorse those of another. Furthermore, Castelli was indebted to the medieval tradition of hydraulic practice, which had introduced several machines unknown in antiquity. This paper will use a selection of late medieval and early modern machine books, both manuscript and printed, to illustrate this practical tradition, visually and technologically. By highlighting the continuities between these machine books and Castelli’s treatise, this paper will argue that the Galileans did not found a ‘new science’ of waters. Instead, they enriched, expanded, and reformed a large body of theoretical and practical knowledge which, by analogy with natural philosophy, ought to be known as hydraulic philosophy.

The seminar will be held in hybrid mode. Please register by contacting and

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