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Egnatio Danti is not a name that is known outside the circle of Renaissance historians of science. If you mention his name people often think you are talking about Dante the Italian medieval poet. But Egnatio Danti an Italian monk friar, who was an artist, mathematician, astronomer and cartographer, was involved in several important mathematical projects in the sixteenth century.
Danti was born in Perugia in April into a family that basically predetermined his life and his career. His grandfather was Pier Vincenzo Rinaldi a goldsmith from profession and a poet, architect and astronomer by inclination.
Nicknamed Dante by his friends he styled himself Dante de Rinaldi, which became shortened to Danti. Teodora studied painting under Pietro Perugino, who also taught Raphael. She went on to become a successful artist in her own right. Guilo became an architect and the father of Vincenzo born and Egnatio. Egnatio learnt drawing from his father and mathematics from his aunt.
His elder brother became a student of Michelangelo and went on to become a successful sculptor. In , aged 19, having attended Perugia University Egnatio joined the Dominican order, where he continued his studies of mathematics, philosophy and theology. As a Dominican he was consistently conservative in his views: an Aristotelian in physics, a Ptolemaic astronomer and a Thomistic astrologer. The room was furnished with carved walnut cabinets constructed by the master carpenter, Dionigi di Matteo Nigetti.
The doors of the cabinets were to be decorated with mural maps depicting the whole world. When Vasari came to look for an artist-cartographer to complete this commission, Vincenzo Danti, who was also working in the Palazzo recommended his younger brother and Egnatio was hired. Fifty-seven maps were commissioned, one for each cabinet door; Egnatio produced the cartoon for all of the maps but only painted thirty-one of them between and ; Stefano Bonsignori painted twenty-seven between and Egnatio also designed and constructed a large terrestrial globe that stands in the centre of the room.
Terrestrial Globe with cabinets in background Source: Wikimedia Commons. A matching celestial globe that was planned to be lowered from the ceiling was never realised. As can be seen the maps are three dimensional pictorial maps but where possible the latitude and longitude for the picture location are accurate. Source: Fiorani The Marvel of Maps p.
Danti moved into the Palazzo, a move that did not please his superiors in the Dominican Order and began life as court cosmographer. A duty that he took very seriously writing and publishing a series of textbooks, many of them translations, in Italian for his pupils. A second requirement of his position was the creation and construction of mathematical and astronomical instruments for Cosimo.
He also became the go-to instrument maker for the upper classes of Tuscany using the status of his position to bestow his favours in this area on carefully chosen customers for rather large sums; the money going to his order and not to him personally. Egnation Danti, Astrolabe, ca. Sosigenes of Alexander was the Greek astronomer, who, according to Pliny the Elder, was consulted by Julius Caesar on the design of the Julian calendar. This is a straight line scale laid out on the floor of the building along which a beam of sunlight.
In Florence this project remained incomplete. To help the Cardinal understand to workings of his fine gift, Danti wrote a treatise on the astrolabe dedicated to the Cardinal. Following pressure from Francesco, Danti was ordered by the Dominican General on 23 September to repair to a convent outside of Tuscany within 24 hours.
This was just two weeks after the autumn equinox, suggesting that there had been an agreement to allow Danti to measure the equinoxes of before his banishment. Danti was sent to San Domenico in Bologna.
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However the recently elected Pope, Gregory XIII, who was Bolognese, a great admirer of cartography and having himself been a professor at the university, supported the appointment. In Bologna Danti constructed a small meridiana in the Inquisition chamber of the San Domenico, which was too short to fulfil the desired function, so he constructed a full length one in the San Petronio Basilica. During his time in Bologna Danti continued to win influential patrons by the selective construction of high quality astronomical instruments as gifts. In he returned to his hometown of Perugia to attend to his brother Vincenzo, who was ailing.
Whilst in the town he was commissioned by the town authorities to carry out a survey and cadaster public register showing the details of ownership and value of land; made for the purpose of taxation of Perugia, a task that he completed in a month making all of his measurements from horseback using a radio latino. Once more he distinguished himself with the speed and quality with which he carried out the work.
In he was commissioned to produce his second great gallery of maps along the walls of the recently constructed upper gallery on the east wing of the Belverdere. This time the theme was not the world, as in Florence, but the whole of Italy. As one proceeded down the gallery the states on the east coast were presented on the left-hand west wall and those on the west coast on the right-hand east wall. This created the illusion of a walk along the Apennine ridge from Northern Italy to Sicily in the south.
Danti planned and designed all of the maps but they were painted by a team of artists. The whole project took just two years to complete. Pedemontium et Monsferratus Source: Wikimedia Commons.
No Man's Land Part 3: The Unconcerned Period by Pierre Zucchi
Each of the murals not only contains the map of its given district but also contains illustrations of significant historical happenings that took place there. Fiorani see below says that this was the first ever atlas of Italy. Did he envisage a united Italy under his leadership? In Danti was officially appointed Papal Cosmographer and at the same time appointed astronomical advisor to the Papal commission on calendar reform. His is one of the nine signatures on the final recommendations as presented to the Pope. On 14 November in recognition of his services Gregory appointed him Bishop of Altari.
It covers an extensive range of historical aspects of the central theme, all of them excellently researched and presented. The book is a real pleasure to read and the illustrations are first class. I got lucky and picked up a ridiculously cheap second hand copy in perfect condition. However, the pungent smell of histsci bullshit drifted downwards on a draft disturbing his slumbers and now he is raging through the underground chambers demanding access to the blog.
Simon Birmingham is the one who needs a history lesson in western civilisation. Rhazes, the medical pioneer of ninth century Baghdad, was beaten blind with his own compendium by a priest. The humanist Michael Servetus, a 16th century physician credited with discovering pulmonary circulation, was tortured and burned along with his books on the shores of Lake Geneva at the personal behest of John Calvin.
In the 17th century, Galileo spent his last years under house arrest, forced by the church to recant the heretical belief that the earth orbited the sun. We can of course assume that Badham got her history of science information from all those professional humanities scholars that she is arguing Birmingham should be supporting with research grants. However, if we did so, we would be very wrong. Her source is a pop article published in Wired in by a woefully ignorant staff journalist, Olivia Solon, under the title:.
There are several more horrors in the original article but I shall only deal here with the three examples that Badham paraphrased.
The original Rhazes paragraph reads as follows:. He was responsible for introducing western teachings, rational thought and the works of Hippocrates and Galen to the Arabic world.
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One of his books, Continens Liber, was a compendium of everything known about medicine. The book made him famous, but offended a Muslim priest who ordered the doctor to be beaten over the head with his own manuscript, which caused him to go blind, preventing him from future practice.
I love the arrant chauvinism of He was responsible for introducing western teachings, rational thought and the works of Hippocrates and Galen to the Arabic world. It smacks of the old style: the Islamic world only conserved the Greek heritage until Renaissance Europe could inherit it and develop it further. He was also, like many other Islamic scholars, a polymath who wrote on medicine, alchemy, philosophy, logic, astronomy and grammar. There are various anecdotes about the cause of his blindness. One of them attributed to Ibn Jujil c.
Note, not a Muslim priest. Somehow this differs somewhat from the film ripe fantasy account delivered up by Solon and parroted by Badham. He wrote a book, which outlined his discovery along with his ideas about reforming Christianity — it was deemed to be heretical. He escaped from Spain and the Catholic Inquisition but came up against the Protestant Inquisition in Switzerland, who held him in equal disregard.
Under orders from John Calvin, Servetus was arrested, tortured and burned at the stake on the shores of Lake Geneva — copies of his book were accompanied for good measure.
His execution had absolutely nothing to do with his discovery of the pulmonary circulation but was entirely the result of his highly heterodox religious views. He did not escape from Spain but from Vienne in France, where he had been imprisoned on suspicion of heresy. Fleeing to Italy he stopped in Geneva, a strange decision as he had already had a major dispute, by exchange of letters, with Calvin on the subject of Christian doctrine. He was arrested, tried, found guilty of heresy and burnt at the stake. Interestingly not only the Catholics and Calvin were happy to see him executed but Luther and Melanchthon as well.
Serveto really knew how to make enemies.