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.

Citation URI

Similar Citations

Article Doina-Cristina Rusu; Dana Jalobeanu; (2020)
Giovan Battista Della Porta and Francis Bacon on the Creative Power of Experimentation (/isis/citation/CBB597860170/)

Article Cesare Pastorino; (2020)
Beyond Recipes: The Baconian Natural and Experimental Histories as an Epistemic Genre (/isis/citation/CBB889974189/)

Book Battista della Porta, Giovan; Trabucco, Oreste; (2008)
Pneumaticorum Libri Tres e in appendice I Tre Libri de' Spiritali cioè d'inalzar acque per forza dell'aria (/isis/citation/CBB000951894/)

Chapter Borrelli, Arianna; (2008)
The Weatherglass and Its Observers in the Early Seventeenth Century (/isis/citation/CBB000952608/)

Article Dana Jalobeanu; (2018)
Spirits Coming Alive: The Subtle Alchemy of Francis Bacon’s Sylva Sylvarum (/isis/citation/CBB868354009/)

Book Andrea Strazzoni; (2019)
Burchard de Volder and the Age of the Scientific Revolution (/isis/citation/CBB530504995/)

Thesis Samantha Snively; (2019)
Making Knowledge in Seventeenth-Century England: Recipes, Writing, and Experimentation (/isis/citation/CBB783502425/)

Article Catherine Abou-Nemeh; (2022)
Daring to Conjecture in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Sciences (/isis/citation/CBB506010564/)

Chapter Hecht, Hartmut; (2008)
Das Experiment in Leibniz' frühen Pneumatica (/isis/citation/CBB000950166/)

Article Doina-Cristina Rusu; (2017)
Rethinking Sylva sylvarum: Francis Bacon's Use of Giambattista Della Porta's Magia naturalis (/isis/citation/CBB077345932/)

Book DiMeo, Michelle; Pennell, Sara; (2013)
Reading and Writing Recipe Books, 1550--1800 (/isis/citation/CBB001552921/)

Authors & Contributors
Rusu, Doina-Cristina
Jalobeanu, Dana
Snively, Samantha
Bragagnolo, Manuela
Dolan, Frances E
Abou-Nemeh, Catherine
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
Perspectives on Science
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Bruniana & Campanelliana: Ricerche Filosofiche e Materiali Storico-testuali
British Society for the History of Mathematics Bulletin
Springer International Publishing
University of California, Davis
Manchester University Press
Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane
Experiments and experimentation
Formulas, recipes, etc...
Experimental philosophy
Scientific apparatus and instruments
Della Porta, Giovan Battista
Bacon, Francis, 1st Baron Verulam
Volder, Burchardus de
Welwood, William
Malynes, Gerard de
Wilhelm, IV, Langraf von Hesse
Time Periods
17th century
16th century
18th century
Kassel (Germany)
Tuscany (Italy)
Marburg. Universität

Be the first to comment!

{{ comment.created_by.username }} on {{ comment.created_on | date:'medium' }}

Log in or register to comment