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Gaspare Berti’s Legacy

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The ‘Mathematicalls’ in Baroque Rome

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Documentation regarding the practical mathematicians in the early modern age is as rare as it is precious. In fact, where it exists, it permits us to document the culture of mathematics at a time of strong interchanges between the ‘artisan epistemology’ and erudite scientific culture. This paper will present a complete edition of the post-mortem inventory of the Roman mathematician Gaspare Berti (1601–1643), which was discovered among the notary papers of the Roman Court of Auditor Camerae. This document is of great interest, both generally and in particular. On the one hand, it sheds light on a figure who has remained unknown for centuries, except for his pioneering work on the vacuum in the early 17th century. On the other hand, thanks to an exceptional wealth of details, through the inventory we are given a deeper look from within at the ‘trading zone’ between practical and theoretical mathematics in the particular context of Baroque Rome. This almost photographic documentation contextualizes the lively world of practical mathematics, allowing comparison with the ‘big narrative’ of its alleged decline after Galileo’s condemnation.

Affiliations: 1: Università di Roma La Sapienza


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