Janello Torriani (Cremona 1500 ca.-Toledo 1585): A social history of invention between Renaissance and scientific revolution
Title: Janello Torriani (Cremona 1500 ca.-Toledo 1585): A social history of invention between Renaissance and scientific revolution
Author: ZANETTI, Cristiano
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2012
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
This PhD thesis analyses the ways in which technological and scientific knowledge was acquired, circulated and employed in Renaissance Europe, and how technological innovation was practiced at the dawn of the Scientific Revolution. Janello Torriani (b. Cremona ca.1500 – d. Toledo 1585) was a craftsman from a minor centre of Northern Italy. In his late forties he was employed in the capital of the duchy of Milan at the service of the imperial governor. This was the first prestigious stage of a career that later took him to the imperial court of Charles V and later that of the Spanish ruler Philip II: a very late but remarkable professional blooming. Torriani created a number of technological devices that were hailed by contemporaries as mechanical marvels, such as the Microcosm, the most complex and compact planetary clock ever built, and the first gigantic machine: the Toledo Device (a 300 meter complex structure that could elevate water for a good 100 meters)1. Moreover, Torriani participated in the Gregorian reform of the calendar, contributing a tract and mathematical instruments for calculus. Further mathematical and mechanical endeavours included a waterworks-survey, celestial observations, automata and other curious clockworks. Historiography so far has mainly investigated Torriani as part of a narrative of Renaissance genius. The category of genius has been extremely popular in accounts dealing with the problematic and multi-faceted notion of Renaissance. Yet, it has little to offer when it comes to research that seeks to construct the social and cultural contexts in which careers as rich in innovation and craftsmanship as Torriani’s was, were moulded. This thesis aims to observe an existing topic - Janello Torriani’s career - through a new perspective. My PhD is thus intended as an essay in the social and cultural history of knowledge, and especially in its declination of technological innovation.
Defence date: 27 October 2012; Examining Board: Professor Antonella Romano, EUI (Supervisor); Professor Bartolomé Yun Casalilla, EUI; Professor Maria Antonietta Visceglia, Università di Roma La Sapienza; Professor Mario Biagioli, UC Davis School of Law.
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