Advertisement

Women on the Verge of Science: Aristocratic Women and Knowledge in Early Eighteenth-Century Italy

  • Paula Findlen

Abstract

In the spring of 1732, when a young lawyer’s daughter, Laura Bassi (1711–78), became the first woman to graduate from the University of Bologna and later the first woman to hold a university chair in any faculty in Europe, not all the women of her city celebrated her accomplishments. Somewhat curiously to our own sensibilities, the woman in Bologna who seemed most likely to appreciate Bassi — the noblewoman Laura Bentivoglio Davia (1689-1761), known to her contemporaries as the ‘beautiful Cartesian’ (la bella Cartesiana) — was most disparaging. From Bologna, she wrote to a friend in Rimini that she could not believe all the fuss over ‘the noisy, or better yet, ridiculous doctorate’ of Bassi.1 So well known and so widely publicized were her criticisms, and so in opposition to the general praise of Bassi, that she commented two weeks later, on 24 June 1732, that she feared she would be stoned by her fellow citizens for daring to suggest that the twenty-one year old Bassi was anything less than a miracle of a new age of knowledge.2

Keywords

Eighteenth Century Italian Peninsula Newtonian Natural Philosophy Unhappy Marriage Famous Woman 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes

  1. 4.
    For more on this image of the woman natural philosopher in France, see Erica Harth, Cartesian Women: Versions and Subervions of Rational Order in the Old Regime (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1993).Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Henry Guerlac, Newton on the Continent (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1981)Google Scholar
  3. Mary Terrall, The Man Who Flattened the Earth (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 18.
    Joan De Jean, Ancients Against Moderns: Culture Wars and the Making of a Fin de Siècle (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997).Google Scholar
  5. 25.
    Giulia Belgioioso, Cultura a Napoli e cartesianismo. Scritti sul G. Gimma, P. M. Doria, C. Cominale (Galatina: Congedo Editore, 1992).Google Scholar
  6. 26.
    Susanna Akerman, Queen Christina and Her Circle: The Transformation of a Seventeenth-Century Philosophical Libertine (Leiden: Brill, 1991). On Christina’s scientific patronage, see especially W. E. K. Middleton,’ science in Rome, ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+), and the Accademia Fisicomatematica of Giovanni Giustino Ciampini,’ British Journal for the History of Science 8 (1975): ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+); and Wilma Di Palma et al., Cristina di Svezia. Scienza ed alchimia nella Roma barocca (Bari: Edizioni Dedalo, 1990); and Wilma di Palma, ‘Urania nel salotto di Cristina,’ in Cristina di Svezia e Roma, ed. Börje Magnusson (Stockholm: Swedish Institute in Rome, 1999), pp. ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 32.
    Francesco Algarotti, Dialoghi sopra l’ottica neutoniana, ed. Ettore Bonora (Turin: Einaudi, 1977; 1969), p. 25. This edition is based on the Livorno ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+) Opere so readers should be aware of the fact that Algarotti continued to alter the text of his work in a series of editions following the 1737 original. Mazzotti, ‘Newtonianism for Ladies,’ offers a more detailed analysis of the text itself.Google Scholar
  8. 35.
    On the female poets of this period, see Elisabetta Graziosi, Avventuriere a Bologna. Due storie esemplari (Modena: Mucchi, 1998).Google Scholar
  9. 37.
    Adolfo Albertazzi, La Contessa d’Almond (Bologna: Zanichelli, 1894), p. 220. On the Davia family, see Gian Paolo Brizzi, ‘Davia,’ Dizionario biografico italiano (Rome, 1987), vol. 33, pp. ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+); and Alfeo Giacomelli, ‘La dinamica della nobiltà bolognese nel XVIII secolo,’ in Famiglie senatorie e istituzioni cittadine a Bologna nel Settecento (Bologna: Istituto per la storia di Bologna, 1980), pp. ([0-9]+)–([0-9]+).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Paula Findlen 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Paula Findlen

There are no affiliations available

Personalised recommendations