De Santillana and Calvino, Engineering Correspondence

De Santillana and Calvino, Engineering Correspondence

Recently reprinted by Adelphi in translation by Julio de Angelis (the article was originally written in English), the seminal work of Giorgio de Santillana. The origins of scientific thought (p. 438, 15 euros). His work as a historian of science deserves to be brought to light again, rediscovered, so that his contribution may not go unnoticed.

Born May 30th 1902 in Rome, after obtaining a degree in Physics in 1925, and two years of specialization in Philosophy in Paris and another two years at the Institute of Physics in Milan, from 1929 he collaborated with Federico Enriques, professor of higher mathematics and higher geometry, to project a school for the history of the sciences which would be Created at the University of Rome. The Jew de Santillana moved to America in 1936, two years before the enactment of the racial laws. From 1935 he held various positions, including visiting lecturer at Harvard University. Associate Assistant in History of Science at MIT, Professor since 1954. His death occurred in Beverly on June 8, 1974.

interest of de Santillana for the History of Science, and matured in 1929, when he became Enrique’s assistant. In his book, the author attempted to reconstruct the scientific thought of civilization – the Hellenistic civilization – with reference also to the Roman world. His thinking ranged from Parmenides to Heraclitus to Pythagoras, from medicine in the School of Hippocrates to the cosmological hacks of Leucippus and Democritus, from the Sophists and Gorgias, to Plato and Aristotle, even Ptolemy and Plutarch.

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With this done, but above all with Hamlet’s Mill, he presents an unprecedented picture of the ancient world, revealing his obsession with numbers, symmetries, and geometric correspondences. In this context, it will reveal pre-modern cultures as the basis for their complex astronomical and cosmogonic concepts and complex mathematical calculations, conveyed in the literary language of mythological tales. Giorgio de Santillana’s idea deeply influenced the work of Italo Calvino, the writer whose literary work weaved more with Primo Levi than any other with consistent references to scientific thought. For de Santillana, whom Calvino knew before he began writing Cosmology, myth and science form a single epistemological system in which their relationship is complementary.

legend was used From science to transmit its contents and at the same time indicates it in order to be able to publish it. It is man’s first step towards scientific knowledge: as Massimo Bocciantini emphasized in his article devoted to the relationship between Calvino and science, the idea of ​​myth as “the first scientific language is Calvino’s unexpected discovery: one of the starting points for writing a cosmology and, more generally, for defining his new cosmological literary project » .

The writer, through de Santillana’s studies, aims at the idea of ​​knowledge in which the world of modern science and the world of ancient wisdom are united. Calvino said, in an interview in 1985, the year of his untimely death: “Hearing Giorgio de Santillana’s conference in 1963, in Ancient destiny and modern destinyIt was the unraveling of a knot of thoughts which might already have been pounding in my head, but which it was difficult for me to articulate… I mean the idea that no human story, no thought, can exist except by being placed in relation to all that exists independently. about human being; The idea of ​​knowledge in which the world of modern science and the world of ancient wisdom are united … It was then that I began writing Cosmology ».

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