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Authors: Scalera, G. 
Title: Mattia Damiani (1705–1776), poet and scientist in eighteenth century Tuscany
Issue Date: Sep-2006
Series/Report no.: 411
DOI:  10.1130/2006.2411(09).
Keywords: History of Meteorology
Scientific Poems
Subject Classification05. General::05.03. Educational, History of Science, Public Issues::05.03.99. General or miscellaneous 
Abstract: Mattia Damiani da Volterra (1705–1776), “renowned Doctor,” was the author in 1754 of a collection of scientifi c poems, Le Muse Fisiche (The Physical Muses) on two subjects: Newtonian physics and the plurality of the worlds. Damiani’s interest in science was precocious, but even at that, it was superimposed on his studies in jurisprudence completed in Pisa in 1726. In 2003, Damiani’s lost text, De Hygrometris et eorum defectibus disputatio (Disputation about hygrometers and their defects), which was printed in 1726 in Pisa, was brought to light. It characterizes him as a young scientist who refl ected upon the properties and limits of laboratory instruments and on nascent aspects of climatology. In this Disputation, a delightful amalgamation of scientifi c and humanistic literature is pursued. A discussion of the properties and limits of contemporary hygrometers and a comparison of the Cartesian and Newtonian hypotheses about cloud formations are interspersed with quotations of verses on natural phenomena, mostly from poems of the classic age—a prelude to the author’s future involvement in writing scientifi c verses. The poetry of Damiani, which often shows a musicality comparable to that of the poet Giacomo Leopardi (1798–1837), deserves to be recognized and saved from oblivion. Especially remarkable is the implicit “multimedia” project of a union among science, poetry, theater, and music. The rediscovered Disputation about hygrometers opens a new window on the personages involved and on the evolution of meteorological concepts in Europe in the context of the then-new Galilean and Newtonian physics.
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