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Della Porta, Giovanni Battista

DELLA PORTA, GIOVANNI BATTISTA (c. 1538-1615), Italian natural philosopher, was born of a noble and ancient family at Naples about the year 1538. He travelled extensively not only in Italy but also in France and Spain, and he was still a youth when he published Magia naturalis, sive de miraculis rerum naturaUum lib. IV. (1558), the first draft of his Magia naturalis, in twenty books, published in 1 589. He founded in Naples the AcademiaSecretorum Naturae, otherwise known as the Accademia dei Oziosi; and in 1610 he became a member of the Accademia dei Lincei at Rome. He died at Naples on the 4th of February 1615.

The following is a list of his principal writings: De miraculis rerum naturalium, in four books (1558); De furtivis litter arum notis, in five books (1563, and frequently afterwards, entitling him to high rank among the early writers on cryptography); Phytognomonica (1583, a bulky treatise on the physiology of plants as then understood); Magia naturalis (1589, and often reprinted); De humana physio gnomonia, in six books (1591); Villa, in twelve books (1592, an interesting practical treatise on farming, gardening and arboriculture, based upon his own observations at his country-seat hear Naples) ; De refractione, optices parte, in nine books (1593); Pneumatica, in three books (1601); De coelesti physiognomonia, in six books (1601); Elementa curvilinea (1601); De distillatione, in nine books (1604); De munitione, in three books (1608) ; and De aeris transmutationibus, in four books (1609). He also wrote several Italian comedies Olimpia (1589); La Fantesca .(1592); La Trappolaria (159?); I'Due Fratelli rivali (1601); La Sorella (1607); La Chiappinaria (1609); La Carbonaria (1628); La Cintia (1628)). Among all the above-mentioned works the chief interest attaches to the Magia naturalis, in which a strange medley of subjects is discussed, including the reproduction of animals, the transmutation of metals, pyrotechny, domestic economy, statics, hunting, the preparation of perfumes. In book xvii. he describes a number of optical experiments, including a description of the camera obscura (q.v.).

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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