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Luca Ciancio

Lien(s) associé(s)Site du CRAL
Luca Luca Ciancio
Luca Ciancio is associate professor of History of Science at the University of Verona (Italy) since 2002. His academic education took place in Bologna and Florence Universities (1982-90), Wellcome Institute (London 1990-91) and Dibner Institute (Boston 2000). After devoting decades to the history of geology and natural history of the Enlightenment, in recent years he began focusing his attention on the debates about underground fires that occurred in Renaissance and Baroque natural philosophy. He also published on the relation between botany and power in Renaissance courts. In an attempt to develop a genuinely interdisciplinary approach, Luca Ciancio aims to associate a traditional concern for the history of ideas to a deep interest toward the role of visual language in scientific practice and a constant attention to the social environments that forged natural philosophy. Luca Ciancio is EHESS visiting professeur invited by Claudine Cohen.
Feux souterraines contre feu central: de Peiresc à Naudé à Gassendi (1631- 1646) [In French]
For a number of French scholars living and travelling in Italy such as Peiresc, the 1631 catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius was a unique opportunity to debate new hypotheses on the structure and dynamic of the underground regions. Their connections with members of the Lynceans Academy contributed to the spreading of their observations and ideas on subterranean fires among Roman natural philosophers as well as their French correspondents. However, the fact that two years after the publication of Descartes’s Principia philosophiae Gassendi explicitly rejected the central fire hypothesis requires a deeper examination of the overall debate and an assessment of its wider implications.
A Devout Meteorology: Giovanni Nardi and the hypothesis of central fire (1641)
In 1641 the Florentine physician Giovanni Nardi (1585-1654), active at the Medici court from 1620 and later archiater to Ferdinando II de’ Medici, published a small Latin treatise entitled De igne subterraneo, a work that most probably inspired Athanasius Kircher’s Mundus subterraneus. In his booklet Nardi argued that the «subterranean fire is a part of the element of fire that the Supreme Artificer enclosed into the deepest cavities of the Earth in order to protect and favor sublunary nature». In itself, Nardi’s hypothesis was neither particularly precocious nor original. For example, the corpuscular chemist Étienne De Clave in his Paradoxes had hypothesized the presence of a permanent fire in the Earth’s central core. Similar views were not rare among Paracelsians such as Michael Sendivogius. Nardi’sattempt, however, may have appeared both courageous and innovative in Counter reformation Tuscany: not onlywas it constructed around a theory that was heterodoxical from the standpoint of the most conservative Aristotelianism, but it sought to deploy a single unifying hypothesis to explain a variety of otherwise chaotic and disconnected phenomena. Most notably, it was largely compatiblewith Catholic orthodoxy.
The Burden of Gravity: Galileo’s dismissal of central fire (1632-1641)
During the final year of his life Galileo recommended to his correspondents to read Giovanni Nardi‘s  De igne subterraneo (1641), a work he seems to have regarded as deserv ing scrutiny and  discussion. The likely reasons for Galileo’s interest deserve to be investigated with reference to the development of his ideas on the structure and phenomena of the terracqueous globe culminating in the Third Day of his Dialogue (1632). Such an investigation lead us to rule out that Galileo could embrace the hypothesis of a single fire constantly active in the Earth’s core. This episode, however, provides an opportunity to show that, although he did not develop anything like a new and coherent theory of the Earth, Galileo became aware that such a theory was among the necessary consequences of the Copernican cosmology.
Jesuit Fervour: reacting to Kircher’s Mundus subterraneus (1657-1697)
How did it happen that the element of fire, after aprevailing association with Lucretian atheism, was gradually rehabilitated and began to be perceived as a providential agent of change in nature? To answer this question, debates in medicine, natural history, chemistry and theory of matter, but also developments in technology since the Renaissance have been called into consideration. Changes of perception toward fire and its meanings that took place in Jesuit natural philosophy can provide additional explanations, especially if we focus on the reactions to Athanasius Kircher’s ideas and representations of the Earth’s central fire (1665) by authoritative confreres such as Pierre Gautruche (1668), Honoré Fabri (1669), Paolo Casati (1686) Giovanni Battista Tolomei (1696) and Franz Reinzer (1697).