Article ID: CBB375390325

Giovan Battista Della Porta's Construction of Pneumatic Phenomena and His Use of Recipes as Heuristic Tools (2020)


Abstract In this paper, I suggest that research results from the history and philosophy of modern science provide a valuable methodological contribution for investigating early modern experimental philosophy and employ them to reassess the contribution of Giovan Battista Della Porta to its development. In modern science, the production of experimental knowledge is dependent on a complex array of communication strategies involving verbal terminology, diagrams, standardized instruments, and measurement units. Historians and philosophers have investigated the constitutive connection between such strategies and the phenomena scientists study in laboratories, showing how the two often co-evolved during the 19th and 20th centuries. Della Porta took an important first step towards the development of such methods by transforming the traditional recipe format into a strategy for mutually connecting, conceptualizing, and sharing observations made in experiments involving similar, but not identical, instruments and procedures. I use as a case study the changing manner in which he used recipes for presenting and connecting a number of pneumatic experiences from the first edition of Natural Magic (1558) until his meteorology treatise On Transmutations of Air (1610). In modern terms, those experiences can be interpreted as demonstrating the air's expansion and contraction with heat or pressure. However, today's notions of air pressure, density, and volume did not exist around 1600 and the verbal, visual, and quantitative means of expressing them had yet to be created. Della Porta did not create the modern notions, but he contributed to their emergence in a substantial way with his discussions of those pneumatic experiences. Della Porta's innovation may be described as the creation of a new epistemic genre, but it was not of a purely literary character, since the recipes also shaped the instruments and procedures they described, transforming them into new means of knowledge production in experimental philosophy.

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Authors & Contributors
Jalobeanu, Dana
Rusu, Doina-Cristina
Borrelli, Arianna
Clucas, Stephen
Craik, Alex D. D.
Della Porta, Giovan Battista
Centaurus: International Magazine of the History of Mathematics, Science, and Technology
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Ambix: Journal of the Society for the History of Alchemy and Chemistry
Archive for History of Exact Sciences
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
Bruniana & Campanelliana: Ricerche Filosofiche e Materiali Storico-testuali
Columbia University
Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane
Manchester University Press
University of California, Davis
Springer International Publishing
Experiments and experimentation
Formulas; recipes
Scientific apparatus and instruments
Natural philosophy
Della Porta, Giovan Battista
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Bodin, Jean
Boyle, Robert
Du Clo, Gaston
Ghetaldi, Marino
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
18th century
Tuscany (Italy)
Marburg. Universität

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