Evangelista Torricelli Biography

Evangelista Torricelli
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Quick Facts

Birthday: October 15, 1608

Nationality: Italian

Died At Age: 39

Sun Sign: Libra

Born in: Faenza

Famous as: Physicist

Physicists Mathematicians


father: Gaspare Torricelli

mother: Caterina Angetti

children: Alexander Torricelli

Died on: October 25, 1647

place of death: Florence

discoveries/inventions: Barometer

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education: Sapienza University of Rome

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Who was Evangelista Torricelli?

Evangelista Torricelli was a famous Italian mathematician and physicist who invented the barometer and laid the foundation of integral calculus. Born to parents of moderate means, Evangelista was sent to his uncle, a Camaldolese monk. Initially he studied at a school for the Jews in Faenza. Recognizing his talent in mathematics, Torricelli was sent to Rome by his uncle, to attend the school of Benedetto Castelli, who was also a monk like his uncle. It was Castelli who introduced Torricelli to Galileo, and Evangelista served as a secretary and assistant to the great scientist for the last few months before Galileo’s death. After Galileo’s death, his position as the court mathematician and philosopher was offered to Evangelista by the Duke of Tuscany, and Torricelli remained in that position until his death. During his stay in Rome, he also befriended the amazing mathematician Bonaventura Cavalieri. Torricelli was the first person to create a vacuum for a prolonged time and discovered the basic principle of barometer. Apart from his theoretical work, Evangelista had great skills as an instrument-maker, and made a lot of money from his skills of lens grinding. Read on to know more about the scientific contributions of this renowned scientist
Childhood & Early Life
Torricelli was born on 15th October, 1608 in Faenza Italy and he was the eldest of the three children of Gaspare Torricelli and Caterina Angetti. His father was employed in the textile industry with moderate means.
Although he recognized his eldest son’s talents early, he realized that he did not have the resources. Torricelli was sent to his uncle Brother Jacopo who helped him with his education until he entered the Jesuit School.
In 1624, Torricelli was admitted in a college for the Jews and he studied both philosophy and mathematics. While some sources state that he was admitted to Jesuit College in Faenza, others believe that he got through ‘Collegio Romano’ in Rome. It is also possible that after his father’s death, when Torricelli’s mother shifted to Rome, Torricelli entered Collegio Romano after finishing his studies in Faenza.
Gauging his talent, Torricelli’s uncle sent him to his fellow monk Benedetto Castelli who was a professor at the ‘University of Sapienza’ in Rome. Catelli taught him a lot of subjects including mechanics, hydraulics, astronomy and mathematics.
Castelli was a student of Galileo, and a chance correspondence with Galileo, where Torricelli introduced himself as a mathematician, led to his liaison with the great scientist.
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In 1632, the first correspondence between Galileo and Torricelli took place where Torricelli wrote on behalf of his professor Castelli. He also further explained in his letter about his interest in mathematics, his exposure to classical texts and his belief in the Copernican theory.
In 1633, in the year of Galileo’s trial, Torricelli was appointed as the secretary of Giovanni Ciampoli. Giovanni was a friend of Galileo, and Torricelli was his secretary for nine years.
By 1641, Torricelli has completed most of his work, which would later be published in three parts of ‘Opera Geometrica’.
During this period, Torricelli also worked and enhanced on Galileo’s theory of parabolic motion of the projectiles and showed it to Castelli. An impressed Castelli wrote to Galileo about Torricelli’s manuscript.
In 1641, Castelli while travelling to Venice, handed a copy of Torricelli’s work to Galileo, and asked him to appoint him as Galileo’s assistant.
On 10th of October in 1641, the aspiring mathematician arrived at Galileo’s house and stayed with the maestro and Viviani, another assistant of Galileo.
Their liaison was short-lived as Galileo died in 1642. When he returned to Rome after Galileo’s demise, Torricelli was appointed in Galileo’s position by the Grand Duke Ferdinando II of Tuscany; however he did not receive the same title of Court Philosopher like his predecessor.
In his years in Florence, Torricelli carried out a lot of scientific activities and befriended painter Salvatore Rosa, Carlo Dati and the hydraulic engineer Andrea Arighetti. Their friendship led to the inception of ‘Accademia dei Percossi’, where it is believed that the former narrated his comedies.
Torricelli invented the mercury barometer; he came across the idea of designing the device while solving the problem of raising the water level with suction pump. By employing mercury, he found an effective way of creating a sustainable vacuum.
He also discovered ‘Torricelli’s law of fluid dynamics’ and ‘Torricelli’s trumpet’. In the field of mathematics, he tried to bridge the gap between Calculus and Greek geometry.
Major Work
Torricelli was inspired by Galileo’s theory and he wrote a treatise known as ‘De Motu’ or Concerning Movement on mechanics. This treatise was basically an amplification of Galileo’s theory on the motion of projectiles in ‘Discorsi e dimostrazioni matematiche intorno a due nuove scienze’.
In 1644, Torricelli published his works in geometry in ‘Opera Geometrica’ in three parts. This was the only book to be published during his lifetime due to the benevolence of the Grand Duke. The writings had clear exposition making geometry easy to understand as compared to Cavalieri’s convoluted theories.
Personal Life & Legacy
This eminent scientist breathed his last on October 25, 1647, and was interred at the church of ‘Basilica of San Lorenzo’ in Florence.
Awards & Achievements
After Galileo’s death, Torricelli was appointed as the mathematician and philosopher, a position vacated by Galileo by the Grand Duke Ferdinando II of Tuscany.
Torricelli wrote a number of comedies which he disclosed before his esteemed friends in ‘Accademiadei Percossi’. These comedies never survived, but they were definitely written by him, as found in his memoirs which he dictated to Lodovico Serenei from his deathbed.

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