Accademia dei Lincei

The Accademia dei Lincei (Italian pronunciation: [akːaˈdɛːmja dei linˈtʃɛi]) (literally the "Academy of the Lynx-Eyed", but anglicised as the Lincean Academy) is an Italian science academy, located at the Palazzo Corsini on the Via della Lungara in Rome, Italy.

Founded in the Papal States in 1603 by Federico Cesi, the academy was named after the lynx, an animal whose sharp vision symbolizes the observational prowess that science requires. Galileo Galilei was the intellectual centre of the academy and adopted "Galileo Galilei Linceo" as his signature. "The Lincei did not long survive the death in 1630 of Cesi, its founder and patron",[1] and "disappeared in 1651".[2] It was revived in the 1870s to become the national academy of Italy, encompassing both literature and science among its concerns.[3]

The Pontifical Academy of Science also claims a heritage descending from the first two incarnations of the Academy, by way of the Accademia Pontificia dei Nuovi Lincei ("Pontifical Academy of the New Lynxes"), founded in 1847.

Trastevere - Accademia dei Lincei alla Lungara 01593
Palazzo Corsini

The Accademia

Portrait of Federico Angelo Cesi (1585-1630) by Pietro Fachetti
Federico Cesi

The first Accademia dei Lincei was founded in 1603 by Federico Cesi, an aristocrat from Umbria (the son of Duke of Acquasparta and a member of an important family from Rome) who was passionately interested in natural history – particularly botany. Cesi's father disapproved of the research career that Federico was pursuing. His mother, Olimpia Orsini, supported him both financially and morally. The Academy struggled due to this disapproval, but after the death of Frederico's father he had enough money to allow the academy to flourish.[4] The academy, hosted in Palazzo Cesi-Armellini near Saint Peter, replaced the first scientific community ever, Giambattista della Porta's Academia Secretorum Naturae in Naples that had been closed by the Inquisition. Cesi founded the Accademia dei Lincei with three friends: the Dutch physician Johannes van Heeck (italianized to Giovanni Ecchio) and two fellow Umbrians, mathematician Francesco Stelluti and polymath Anastasio de Filiis. At the time of the Accademia's founding Cesi was only 18, and the others only 8 years older. Cesi and his friends aimed to understand all of the natural sciences. The literary and antiquarian emphasis set the "Lincei" apart from the host of sixteenth and seventeenth century Italian Academies. Cesi envisioned a program of free experiment that was respectful of tradition, yet unfettered by blind obedience to authority, even that of Aristotle and Ptolemy, whose theories the new science called into question. While originally a private association, the Academy became a semi-public establishment during the Napoleonic domination of Rome. This shift allowed local scientific elite to carve out a place for themselves in larger scientific networks. However, as a semi-public establishment, the Academy's focus was directed by Napoleonic politics. This focus directed the member's efforts towards stimulating industry, turning public opinion in favor of the French regime and secularizing the country.[5]

The name "Lincei" (lynx) came from Giambattista della Porta's book "Magia Naturalis," which had an illustration of the fabled cat on the cover and the words "...with lynx like eyes, examining those things which manifest themselves, so that having observed them, he may zealously use them".[6] Accademia dei Lincei's symbols were both a lynx and an eagle; animals with, or reputed to have, keen sight (in classical and medieval bestiaries the lynx was reputed to be able to see through rock and "new walls").[7] The academy's motto, chosen by Cesi, was: "Take care of small things if you want to obtain the greatest results" (minima cura si maxima vis). According to T. O'Conor Sloane, their other motto was Sagacius ista.[8] When Cesi visited Naples, he met with many scientists in fields of interest to him including the botanist, Fabio Colonna, the natural history writer, Ferrante Imperato, and the polymath della Porta. Della Porta was impressed with Cesi, and dedicated three works to the Linceans including a treatise on distillation called De Distillatione, a book on curvilinear geometry called Elementa Curvilinea, and The Transformations of the Atmosphere.[9] Della Porta encouraged Cesi to continue with his endeavours.[6] Giambattista della Porta joined Cesi's academy in 1610. While in Naples, Cesi also met with Nardo Antonio Recchi to negotiate the acquisition of a collection of material describing Aztec plants and animals written by Francisco Hernández de Toledo. This collection of material would eventually become the Tesoro Messicano (Mexican Treasury).[9]

The goal was anything less than the assembly of modern science reflected on the method of observation: the church of knowledge. The Academy was to possess in each quarter of the global communes with adequate endowments to retain membership. These communes were complete with libraries, laboratories, museums, printing presses, and botanical gardens. Members frequently wrote letters around their observations. The Lyncæis denounced marriage as a mollis and effeminata requies. Membership was banned to monks. Members were ordered to "penetrate into the interior of things in order to know the causes and operations of nature, as it is said the lynx does, which sees not only what is outside, but what is hidden within."[10]

Galileo was inducted to the exclusive Academy on April 25, 1611, and became its intellectual center. Galileo clearly felt honoured by his association with the Academy for he adopted Galileo Galilei Linceo as his signature. The Academy published his works and supported him during his disputes with the Roman Inquisition. Among the Academy's early publications in the fields of astronomy, physics and botany were Galileo's "Letters on Sunspots" and "The Assayer", and the Tesoro Messicano describing the flora, fauna and drugs of the New World, which took decades of labor, down to 1651. With this publication, the first, most famous phase of the Lincei was concluded. The new usage of microscopy, with "references to magnification tools can be found in the works of Galileo and several Lincei, Harvey, Gassendi, Marco Aurelio Severino—who was probably also in contact with the Lincie—and Nathanial Highmore." Domenico Bertoloni Meli, in Mechanism, Experiment, Disease: Marcello Malpighi and Seventeenth-Century Anatomy (Johns Hopkins University Press: 2011; p. 41). Microscopes were not just by the Lincei for astronomical and mathematical work, but were also used for new experimentations in anatomy, as this was the time of the rise of mechanistic anatomy, and the theories of atomism. Experimentation proliferated across the board. Cesi's own intense activity was cut short by his sudden death in 1630 at forty-five.

The Linceans produced an important collection of micrographs, or drawings made with the help of the newly invented microscope. After Cesi's death, the Accademia dei Lincei closed and the drawings were collected by Cassiano dal Pozzo, a Roman antiquarian, whose heirs sold them. The majority of the collection was procured by George III of the United Kingdom, in 1763. The drawings were discovered in Windsor Castle in 1986, by art historian David Freedberg. They are being published as part of The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo.[11]


The Accademia is re-founded

In 1801, Abbot Feliciano Scarpellini and Gioacchino Pessuti, with the patronage of Francesco Caetani, founded the Accademia Caetani which took the name of Accademia dei Lincei.[12][13] The period from 1801-1840 has been termed the "Second Renaissance" of the Accademia. Conflicting goals and general shifts in the "geo-political scale" left the Academy in a state of limbo, which ultimately led to its collapse in the 1840s.[13] During the French domination of the Accademia, the institution saw a transition from a private association to a municipal institution.[13] Despite efforts from the early 1800s onward, the Accademia underwent a true revival in 1847, when Pope Pius IX re-founded it as the Pontificia Accademia dei Nuovi Lincei, the Pontifical Academy of New Lincei.

The Reale Accademia dei Lincei

in 1874, Quintino Sella turned it into the Accademia Nazionale Reale dei Lincei, the Royal National Lincean Academy. This incarnation broadened its scope to include moral and humanistic sciences, and regained the high prestige associated with the original Lincean Academy. After the unification of Italy, the Piedmontese Quintino Sella infused new life into the Nuovi Lincei, reaffirming its ideals of secular science, but broadening its scope to include humanistic studies: history, philology, archeology, philosophy, economics and law, in two classes of Soci (Fellows).


The Accademia d'Italia

see main article Royal Academy of Italy

During the fascist period the Lincean Academy was effectively replaced by the new Accademia d'Italia, the Italian Academy, but was not fully absorbed by that institution until 1939.[18] In 1949, after the fall of the fascist regime, at the suggestion of Benedetto Croce the Lincean Academy recovered its independence. A brief history of this period of the Accademia, as well as the complete inventory of publications and documents produced in the same period, can be found in the book by Cagiano De Azevedo & Gerardi (2005).

The Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei

In 1986, the Academy was placed under a statute that says it shall be composed of 540 members, of whom 180 are ordinary Italian members, 180 are foreigners, and 180 are Italian corresponding members. The members are divided into two classes: one for mathematical, physical, and natural sciences; the other for moral, historical, and philological sciences.

In 2001, the natural sciences were re-divided into five categories: mathematics, mechanics and applications; astronomy, geodesy, geophysics and applications; physics, chemistry and applications; geology, paleontology, mineralogy and applications; and biological sciences and applications. At the same time, the moral sciences were divided into seven categories: philology and linguistics; archeology; criticism of art and of poetry; history, historical geography, and anthropology; philosophical science; juridical science; social and political science.


  1. ^ Quoted from: Peter M.J Hess, Paul L. Allen. Catholicism and Science. ISBN 9780313021954. Page 39.
  2. ^ Quoted from: Agustín Udías. Searching the Heavens and the Earth: The History of Jesuit Observatories. Springer, 2003. ISBN 9781402011894. Page 5.
  3. ^ Thomas G. Bergin (ed.), Encyclopedia of Renaissance Italy (Oxford and New York: New Market Books, 1987).
  4. ^ "Federico Cesi (1585–1630) and the Accademia dei Lincei". The Galileo Project. Retrieved 10 December 2015.
  5. ^ Donato, Maria Pia. "Science on the Fringe of the Empire: The Academy of Linceans in the early 19th century". Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza. 27 (1): 137–138.
  6. ^ a b Della Porta's Life – From Giambattista Della Porta Dramatist by Louise George Clubb – Princeton University Press Princeton, New Jersey, 1965
  7. ^ Walton, 370
  8. ^ Sloane 11
  9. ^ a b David Freedberg, The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural History, Chicago: Chicago University Press, 2002.
  10. ^ Sloane, 11
  11. ^ Paper Museum, Warburg Institute Archived March 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  12. ^ Accademia dei Lincei: Protagonisti: Feliciano Scarpellini
  13. ^ a b c Donato, Maria Pia (2012-01-01). "Science on the Fringe of the Empire: The Academy of the Linceans in the Early Nineteenth Century". Nuncius. 27 (1): 110–140. doi:10.1163/182539112X637183. ISSN 1825-3911.
  14. ^ Sloane, 11
  15. ^ Sloane, 11
  16. ^ Sloane, 11
  17. ^ Sloane, 11
  18. ^ Fascist Italy, John Whittam, page 84


External links

Coordinates: 41°53′36″N 12°28′00″E / 41.89333°N 12.46667°E

Alessandro Vaciago

Alessandro Vaciago (September 11, 1931 – November 17, 1993) was a Professor of Chemical Structure, University of Rome from 1971 to 1993. He also served as a Cultural Counselor for the Italian Embassy.The Accademia dei Lincei awards yearly the Vaciago Prize to distinguished researchers in different fields of science.

Anastasio de Filiis

Anastasio de Filiis (Terni 1577 - Naples 1608), together with Prince Federico Cesi, the Dutch physician Johannes van Heeck and Francesco Stelluti, was one of the four founding members of the Accademia dei Lincei. He wrote a number of works on natural science and tables of astronomical observations which have since been lost.

Enrico Alleva

Enrico Alleva (born 16 August 1953 in Rome, Italy) is an Italian ethologist. He has been president of the Società Italiana di Etologia (Italian Ethological Society) since 2008.

After obtaining his degree in biological sciences at the Sapienza University of Rome (1975) with geneticist Giuseppe Montalenti, Alleva specialized in animal behaviour at the Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa (tutored by Floriano Papi). Alleva is a member of the scientific councils of Agenzia per la protezione dell'ambiente e per i servizi tecnici, World Wide Fund for Nature, Legambiente, Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana "Giovanni Treccani", Italian Space Agency, CNR Department "Scienze della vita", and the Commissione Antartide. He is a corresponding member of the Accademia dei Lincei, Accademia Medica di Roma, and the Academy of Sciences of the Institute of Bologna. Alleva was awarded the "G. B. Grassi" prize of the Accademia dei Lincei and the Anokhin Medal of the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences.

Since 1990, Alleva is the director of the Section of Behavioural Neurosciences of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità (Rome). The Web of Science lists over 250 articles in peer-reviewed journals that have been cited almost 5000 times, with an h-index of 38. He is the editor-in-chief of the Annali dell'Istituto Superiore di Sanità.Alleva is also a well known scientific populariser, who has written Il tacchino termostatico (Theoria, 1990), Consigli a un giovane etologo (Theoria, 1994, with Nicoletta Tiliacos), and La mente animale (Einaudi, 2008) and is often invited to radio and television shows.

Federico Cesi

For the 16th-century cardinal, see Federico Cesi (cardinal).Federico Angelo Cesi (Italian: [fedeˈriːko ˈandʒelo ˈtʃɛːzi]; February 26, 1585 – August 1, 1630) was an Italian scientist, naturalist, and founder of the Accademia dei Lincei. On his father's death in 1630, he became briefly lord of Acquasparta.

Francesco Stelluti

Francesco Stelluti (12 January 1577, (Fabriano) – November 1652, (Rome)) was an Italian polymath who worked in the fields of mathematics, microscopy, literature, and astronomy. Along with Federico Cesi, Anastasio de Filiis and Johannes van Heeck, he founded the Accademia dei Lincei in August 1603.

Giorgio Salvini

Giorgio Salvini (24 April 1920 – 8 April 2015) was an Italian physicist and politician.

Born in Milan, in 1953 Salvini was responsible for the construction of the first Italian circular particle accelerator, the electron synchrotron of Frascati ("elettrosincrotrone di Frascati"). Between 1966 and 1970 he was president of the Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare (INFN).He served as president of the Accademia dei Lincei from 1990 to 1994.He was Minister of University, Scientific Research and Technology in the Dini 1995-1996 cabinet.

Giovanni Conso

Giovanni Battista Conso (23 March 1922 – 2 August 2015) was an Italian jurist who served on the Constitutional Court of Italy for nine years beginning in 1982, and has served as President of the Accademia dei Lincei from 1989 until his death in 2015.

Conso was the Minister of Justice in the Amato I Cabinet and in the Ciampi Cabinet between 1993 and 1994. Conso died in Rome in 2015.

Giovanni Demisiani

Giovanni Demisiani (Greek: Ἰωάννης Δημησιάνος; died 1614), a Greek from Zakynthos, was a theologian, chemist, mathematician to Cardinal Gonzaga, and member of the Accademia dei Lincei. Demisiani is noted for coining the name telescope (from the Greek τῆλε, tele "far" and σκοπεῖν, skopein "to look or see") for a version of the instrument presented by Galileo Galilei to the Accademia dei Lincei at a banquet honoring Galileo’s induction into the Accademia in 1611.

Giovanni Faber

Giovanni Faber (or Johann Faber, sometimes also known as Fabri or Fabro) (1574–1629) was a German papal doctor, botanist and art collector, originally from Bamberg in Bavaria, who lived in Rome from 1598. He was curator of the Vatican botanical garden, a member and the secretary of the Accademia dei Lincei. He acted throughout his career as a political broker between Maximilian I, Elector of Bavaria and Rome. He was a friend of fellow Linceian Galileo Galilei, and the German painters in Rome, Johann Rottenhammer and Adam Elsheimer. He has also been credited with inventing the name "microscope".

Giuliano Bonfante

Giuliano Bonfante (Milan, 6 August 1904 – Rome, 9 September 2005) was an Italian linguist and expert on the language of the Etruscans and other Italic peoples. He was professor of linguistics at the University of Turin.Bonfante was born in Milan, the son of jurist Pietro Bonfante. He collaborated with his daughter, Larissa Bonfante, in his study of the Etruscan language. He became a member of the Accademia dei Lincei in 1958.

He died in Rome.

Ilya Gershevitch

Ilya Gershevitch (born 1914 in Zürich, died 2001 in Cambridge) was a noted expert on Iran.

Gershevitch was born to Russian parents fleeing from Germany to Switzerland at the outbreak of World War I.

He enrolled in the University of Rome in 1933, and moved to England in 1938.

In 1948, he became the first holder of a new Lectureship in Iranian Studies at Cambridge University.

He became a Fellow of the British Academy in 1967 and later a corresponding member of both the Accademia dei Lincei and the Russian Academy. In 1971 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Berne.

His work includes pioneering studies of the Bashkardi dialect, the decipherment of Bactrian, besides contributions to Sogdian and Avestan philology, Ossetic, Elamite and Zoroastrian studies and Achaemenid history.

Johannes van Heeck

Johannes van Heeck, (Deventer 2 February 1579 - presumably Sant'Angelo Romano c.1620), (also known as Johann Heck, Joannes Eck, Johannes Heckius, Johannes Eckius and Giovanni Ecchio) was a Dutch physician, naturalist, alchemist and astrologer. Together with Prince Federico Cesi, Anastasio de Filiis and Francesco Stelluti, he was one of the four founding members of the Accademia dei Lincei, the first learned society dedicated to understanding of the natural world through scientific enquiry.

Luca Valerio

Luca Valerio (1553–1618) was an Italian mathematician. He developed ways to find volumes and centers of gravity of solid bodies using the methods of Archimedes. He corresponded with Galileo Galilei and was a member of the Accademia dei Lincei.

Luigi Pernier

Luigi Pernier (Rome, 23 November 1874 – Rhodes, 18 August 1937) was an Italian archaeologist and academic now best known for his discovery of the Disc of Phaistos.

Lungotevere della Farnesina

Lungotevere della Farnesina is the stretch of Lungotevere that links Piazza Trilussa to Ponte Giuseppe Mazzini in Rome (Italy), in the Rione Trastevere.The Lungotevere takes its name from villa Farnesina, the present seat of the Accademia dei Lincei.

The works for the building of the Lungotevere, in 1879, brought to light the sepulchre of Gaius Sulpicius Platorinus, dating back to the 1st century; after being reconstructed, it was moved to the National Roman Museum within the Baths of Diocletian.

Lynx (mythology)

The lynx, a type of wildcat, has a prominent role in Greek, Norse, and North American mythology. It is considered an elusive and mysterious creature, known in some American Indian traditions as a 'keeper of secrets'. It is also believed to have supernatural eyesight, capable of seeing even through solid objects. As a result, it often symbolises the unravelling of hidden truths, and the psychic power of clairvoyance.

Theophilus Müller

Theophilus Müller (also known as Teofilo Molinatore and Theophilus Molitor) (Hersfeld 1576- Würzburg 1619 (?)) was professor of botany at the University of Ingolstadt. He joined the Accademia dei Lincei in 1611.In 1621 Theophilus Müller and Giovanni Faber performed the first documented dissection of a rat. Their pregnant specimen appeared to have a penis and testes as well as a uterus, so they described it as a hermaphrodite. In fact the supposed penis was a clitoris, and the testes were vaginal glands.Federico Cesi had purchased the unpublished papers of the Fransicso Hernández expedition, part-edited by Nardo Antonio Recchi, containing a compendium of New World plants. There was a Lincean project to send Müller to Mexico to complete the necessary research for the publication, but nothing appears to have come of it.

Wilhelm Henzen

Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Henzen (January 24, 1816 – January 27, 1887) was a German philologist and epigraphist born in Bremen.

He studied philology at the Universities of Bonn and Berlin, afterwards traveling to Paris and London, where he furthered his education by becoming fluent in French and English. With Friedrich Gottlieb Welcker (1784-1868), he undertook archaeological investigations in Italy and Greece, and in 1842 settled in Rome, where in 1856 he succeeded August Emil Braun (1809-1856) as first secretary of the Deutsches Archäologisches Institut (German Archaeological Institute). From 1876 onward, he was a member of the Accademia dei Lincei.

Henzen was a leading authority on Latin epigraphy. With Theodor Mommsen (1817-1903) and Giovanni Battista de Rossi (1822-1894), he carried out plans for a universal "Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum" based on a scheme presented to the Berlin Academy by Mommsen in 1847. Also, he provided a supplemental volume to Johann Caspar von Orelli's collection of Latin inscriptions, "Inscriptionum latinarum collectio" (1856).

Wilhelm Körner

Wilhelm Körner, later a.k.a. Guglielmo Körner (April 20, 1839 in Cassel – March 29, 1925 in Milan) was a German chemist.

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