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Born on this day
Robert William Holley
Robert William Holley was an American biochemist.
5th week in year
28 January 2020

Important personalitiesBack

Giovanni Alfonso Borelli 28.1.1608

Wikipedia (25 Mar 2013, 13:14)
Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (28 January 1608, Naples - 31 December 1679, Rome) was a Renaissance Italian physiologist, biomechanist, physicist, and mathematician. He contributed to the modern principle of scientific investigation by continuing Galileo's custom of testing hypotheses against observation. Trained in mathematics, Borelli also made extensive studies of Jupiter's moons, the mechanics of animal locomotion and, in microscopy, of the constituents of blood. He also used microscopy to investigate the stomatal movement of plants, and undertook studies in medicine and geology. During his career, he enjoyed the patronage of Queen Christina of Sweden.


Giovanni Borelli was born on 28 January 1608 in the district of Castel Nuovo, in Naples. He was the son of Spanish infantryman Miguel Alonso and a local woman named Laura Porello (alternately Porelli or Borelli.)

Borelli eventually traveled to Rome where he studied under Benedetto Castelli, matriculating in mathematics. Sometime before 1640 he was appointed Professor of Mathematics at Messina. In the early 1640s, he met Galileo Galilei in Florence. While it is likely that they remained acquaintances, Galileo rejected considerations to nominate Borelli as head of Mathematics at the University of Pisa when he left the post himself. Borelli would attain this post in 1656. It was there that he first met the Italian anatomist Marcello Malpighi.

Borelli and Malpighi were both founder-members of the short-lived Accademia del Cimento, an Italian scientific academy founded in 1657. It was here that Borelli, piqued by Malpighi's own studies, began his first investigations into the science of animal movement, or biomechanics. This began an interest that would continue for the rest of his life, eventually earning him the title of the Father of Biomechanics. Borelli's involvement in the Accademia was temporary and the organization itself disbanded shortly after he left.

Borelli returned to Messina in 1668 but was quickly forced into exile for suspected involvement in political conspiracies. Here he first became acquainted with ex-Queen Christina of Sweden who had also been exiled to Rome for converting to Catholicism. Borelli lived the rest of his years in poverty, teaching basic mathematics at the school of the convent where he had been allowed to live. He never saw the publication of his masterwork, De Motu Animalium (On the Movement of Animals) as it was published posthumously, financed by Christina and his benefactors at the convent.

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