Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi


  • Paolo CavagneroEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_932-1


Renaissance hydrostatics developed almost independently from other fields of mechanics. Through all the Middle Ages and early Renaissance, only the main results of Archimedes’ fundamental work On Floating Bodies were known and substantially accepted, with no attention of their theoretical foundations. The gradual rediscovery of Archimedean texts (through apocryphal texts and Latin translations) gave new life to the speculations on the equilibrium of fluids and the laws of flotation. A key figure in Renaissance hydrostatics is Leonardo da Vinci. Although he never accessed Archimedes’ treatise, some Archimedean notions can be found in his manuscripts, where a qualitative approach to hydraulic problems led him to a sort of mechanical demonstration of the distribution of hydrostatic pressure on a vertical surface. It was only after the publication of print editions of Archimedes’ work that hydrostatics found a new and more sound theoretical framework, with the work of Simon Stevin. His rejection of perpetual motion and the hypothesis of a water “stiffening” which does not affect equilibrium within the liquid body allowed him to generalize Archimedes’ law of flotation, demonstrate the hydraulic paradox, and formulate the basic law which describes hydrostatic pressure on a submerged surface.


Hydrostatic Pressure Fifteenth Century Fourteenth Century Natural Place Floating Body 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environment, Land and Infrastructure EngineeringPolitecnico di TorinoTurinItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Matteo Valleriani
    • 1
  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for the History of ScienceBerlinGermany