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A: Paris, Île-de-France, France, B: Milano, Lombardia, Italy

Giovanni Battista Venturi Begins Scientific and Art Historical Studies on Leonardo da Vinci


In 1797 Italian physicist Giovanni Battista Venturi published Essais sur les ouvrages physico-mathématiques de Léonard de Vinci, avec des fragmens tirés de ses manuscrits.... This brief work, with one folding engraved plate, was the first study to draw attention to Leonardo's scientific work as distinct from his art work.

Venturi, who lived in Paris for much of his life, had access to the Leonardo da Vinci manuscripts which had been moved by order of Napoleon, after his conquests in the Italian peninsula, from the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan to the Institut National in Paris. Venturi organized the codices and gave them the letters by which they are known today. His studies inspired him to claim that “il faut donc placer Léonard à la tête de ceux qui se sont occupés des sciences Physico-Mathématiques et de la vraie méthode d’étudier parmi les Modernes.” In his 56 page book, Venturi presented excerpts, translated into French, of some of the manuscripts’ most important sections on physics, mathematics and geology together with essays and notes of his own on the texts. Venturi intended this work to be the prelude to a more ambitious three-volume edition of Leonardo’s complete writings on mechanics, hydraulics and optics; however, this was never published.

Venturi is best known for his researches on the Venturi effect described in his treatise on hydraulics, Recherches expérimentales sur le principe de la communication latérale du mouvement dans les fluides appliqué a l'explication de differens phenomenes hydrauliques, also first published in 1797. Verga, Bibliografia Vinciana, No. 273. 

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