Giambattista Della Porta life and biography

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Giambattista Della Porta biography

Date of birth : -
Date of death : 1615-02-04
Birthplace : Naples, Italy
Nationality : Italian
Category : Science and Technology
Last modified : 2011-12-17
Credited as : Author, founded the Academia Secretorum Naturae, published Magia Naturalis

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Giambattista della Porta (1535 – 4 February 1615), also known as Giovanni Battista Della Porta and John Baptist Porta, was an Italian scholar, polymath and playwright who lived in Naples at the time of the Scientific Revolution and Reformation.

He travelled extensively not only in Italy but also in France and Spain, and he was still a youth when he published Magia Naturalis, sive de miraculis rerum naturalium lib. IV. (1558), the first draft of his Magia Naturalis, in twenty books, published in 1589. He founded in Naples the Academia Secretorum Naturae, otherwise known as the Accademia dei Oziosi; and in 1610 he became a member of the Accademia dei Lincei at Rome. He died at Naples on the 4th of February 1615.

The following is a list of his principal writings: De miraculis rerum naturalium, in four books (1558); De furtivis litterarum notis, in five books (1563, and frequently afterwards, entitling him to high rank among the early writers on cryptography); Phytognomonica (1583, a bulky treatise on the physiology of plants as then understood); Magia Naturalis (1589, and often reprinted); De humana physiognomonia, in six books (1591); Villa, in twelve books (1592, an interesting practical treatise on farming, gardening and arboriculture, based upon his own observations at his country seat near Naples); De refractione, optices parte, in nine books (1593); Pneumatica, in three books (1601); De coelesti physiognomonia, in six books (1601); Elementa curvilinea (1601); De distillatione, in nine books (1604); De munitione, in three books (1608); and De aëris transmutationibus, in four books (1609). He also wrote several Italian comedies, Olimpia (1589); La Fantesca (1592); La Trappolaria (1597); I'Due Fratelli rivali (1601); La Sorella (1607); La Chiappinaria (1609); La Carbonaria (1628); La Cintia (1628). Among all the above-mentioned works the chief interest attaches to the Magia Naturalis, in which a strange medley of subjects is discussed, including the reproduction of animals, the transmutation of metals, pyrotechny, domestic economy, statics, hunting, the preparation of perfumes. In book XVII he describes a number of optical experiments, including a description of the camera obscura.

- Natural Magic 1558 expanded to 20 books 1589. English translation 1658. Available online at
-De furtivis Literarum Notis (1563) On secret codes and Cryptography
-Villa (1583-92) An agricultural encyclopaedia
- De humana physiognomonia libri IIII (1586) On Physiognomy
-De refractione optices (1589) On Optics
-Elementorum curvilineorum libri duo (1601)
-Coelestis Physiogranonia (1603) pub. Naples
-De aeris transmutanionbus (1609) On Meteorology
-De distillatione (1610) Della Porta's chemical experiments and observations.
-De Miracoli & Maravigliosi Effetti dalla Natura prodotti (1665) pub. Venice

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