Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, also Helen Cornaro (Italian: [pisˈkɔːpja]; 5 June 1646 – 26 July 1684), was a Venetian philosopher of noble descent, who was one of the first women to receive an academic degree from a university and in 1678 she became the first woman in the world to receive a Ph.D. degree.
Elena Cornaro Piscopia
|Born||5 June 1646|
|Died||26 July 1684 (aged 38)|
|Alma mater||University of Padua|
|Academic advisors||Carlo Rinaldini (philosophy)|
Felice Rotondi (theology)
Elena Cornaro Piscopia was born in the Palazzo Loredan, at Venice, Republic of Venice on 5 June 1646. She was the third child of Gianbattista Cornaro-Piscopia, and his mistress Zanetta Boni. Her mother was a peasant and her parents were not married at the time of her birth. As such, Lady Elena was not technically a member of the Cornaro family by birth, as Venetian law barred illegitimate children of nobles from noble privilege, even if recognized by the noble parent. Worse for Zanetta's case, she was from an extremely poor peasant family. Zanetta had likely fled to Venice in order to escape starvation, and soon found herself the mistress of a member of one of the most powerful noble dynasties in the Republic. Gianbattista and Zanetta married officially in 1654, but his sons were barred from noble privilege, which galled Gianbattista.
In 1664, her father was chosen to become the Procuratore di San Marco de supra, the treasurer of St. Mark's, a coveted position among Venetian nobility. At that point, her father was second only to the Doge of Venice in terms of precedence. Because of this connection, Lady Elena was prominent in the Marriage of the Sea celebration, even though she was born illegitimate. Her father tried to arrange betrothals for her several times. She rebuffed each man's advances, as she had taken a vow of chastity at the age of eleven.
As a young girl, Lady Elena was seen as a prodigy. By the advice from Giovanni Fabris, a priest who was a friend of the family, she began a classical education. She studied Latin and Greek under distinguished instructors, and soon became proficient in these languages at the age of seven, including French and Spanish. She also mastered Hebrew, Spanish, French and Arabic, earning the title of "Oraculum Septilingue". Her later studies included mathematics, philosophy, and theology.
Elena came to be an expert musician. In addition to mastering the sciblis of her time—which means she mastered almost the entire body of knowledge—Elena mastered the harpsichord, the clavichord, the harp, and the violin. Her skills were shown by the music that she composed in her lifetime.
In her late teens and early twenties, she became interested in physics, astronomy, and linguistics. Carlo Rinaldini, her tutor in philosophy, and at that point the Chairman of Philosophy at the University of Padua, published a book in Latin centering on geometry. The book was dedicated to a twenty-two year old Elena in 1668. When her main tutor, Fabris, passed away, she became even closer to Rinaldini, who took over her studies.
In 1669, she translated the Colloquy of Christ by Carthusian monk Giovanni Lanspergio from Spanish into Italian. The translation was dedicated to her close friend and confessor, Fr. Gianpaolo Oliva. The volume was issued in five editions in the Republic from 1669 to 1672. She was invited to be a part of many scholarly societies when her fame spread and in 1670 became president of the Venetian society Accademia dei Pacifici.
Upon the recommendation of Carlo Rinaldini, her tutor in philosophy, Felice Rotondi, petitioned the University of Padua to grant Cornaro the laurea in theology. When Gregorio Cardinal Barbarigo, the bishop of Padua, learned that she was pursuing a degree in theology, he refused on the grounds that she was a woman. However, he did allow for her to get a degree in philosophy and after a brilliant course of study received the laurea in Philosophy. The degree was conferred on 25 June 1678, in Padua Cathedral in the presence of the University authorities, the professors of all the faculties, the students, and most of the Venetian Senators, together with many invited guests from the Universities of Bologna, Perugia, Rome, and Naples. The Lady Elena spoke for an hour in classical Latin, explaining difficult passages selected at random from the works of Aristotle. She was listened to with great attention, and when she had finished, she received plaudits as Professor Rinaldini proceeded to award her the insignia of the laurea, the book of philosophy, placing the wreath of laurel on her head, the ring on her finger, and over her shoulders the ermine mozetta. This scene is illustrated in the Cornaro Window in the West Wing of the Thompson Memorial Library at Vassar College.
The last seven years of her life were devoted to study and charity. She died at Padua in 1684 of tuberculosis, was buried in the church of Santa Giustina at Padua, and her statue was placed in the university.
Her death was marked by memorial services in Venice, Padua, Siena, and Rome. Her writings, published at Parma in 1688, include academic discourses, translations, and devotional treatises. In 1685 the University of Padua caused a medal to be struck in her honour. In 1895 Abbess Mathilda Pynsent of the English Benedictine Nuns in Rome had Elena's tomb opened, the remains placed in a new casket, and a suitable tablet inscribed to her memory.
The book by Jane Smith Guernsey, entitled The Lady Cornaro: Pride and Prodigy of Venice, published in 1999, is the first full-length study of the life of Lady Elena.
was a common year starting on Monday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar, the 1646th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 646th year of the 2nd millennium, the 46th year of the 17th century, and the 7th year of the 1640s decade. As of the start of 1646, the Gregorian calendar was
10 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923. It is one of eight years (CE) to contain each Roman numeral once (1000(M)+500(D)+100(C)+(-10(X)+50(L))+5(V)+1(I) = 1646).1684
was a leap year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar, the 1684th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 684th year of the 2nd millennium, the 84th year of the 17th century, and the 5th year of the 1680s decade. As of the start of 1684, the Gregorian calendar was
10 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.Accademia Galileiana
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Not to be confused with Alvise Contarini (1597–1651), Venetian diplomat who negotiated the Peace of Westphalia.Alvise Contarini (24 October 1601 – 15 January 1684) was the 106th Doge of Venice, reigning from his election on 26 August 1676 until his death seven and a half years later. He was the eighth and final member of the House of Contarini to serve as Doge of Venice (with the first being Domenico I Contarini, who became Doge in 1043).
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The Cornaro (Corner in Venetian dialect) are a patrician family in Venice from which for centuries senior office-holders and Doges sprung.
Felicia Cornaro (died 1111), dogaressa of Venice
Andrea Cornaro (died 1323), Margrave of Bodonitsa
Marco Cornaro (c.1286–1368), doge 1365-68
Luigi Cornaro (c.1464–1566), who wrote treatises on dieting
Giorgio Cornaro (1452–1527), brother of Caterina Cornaro
Caterina Cornaro (1454–1510), Queen of Cyprus from 1474 to 1489
Francesco Cornaro (1476–1543), Cardinal from 1527
Marco Cornaro (1482–1524), cardinal from 1500
Cardinal Federico Baldissera Bartolomeo Cornaro (1579–1653), Patriarch of Venice 1631–44
Giovanni I Cornaro (1551–1629), doge from 1624
Francesco Corner (1585–1656), doge in 1656
Giovanni II Cornaro (1647–1722), doge from 1709
Giorgio Cornaro (cardinal) (1658–1722), cardinal from 1697
Laura Cornaro (d.1739), dogaressa
Giovanni Cornaro (1720–1789), cardinal from 1778They had eight palaces on the Grand Canal, Venice at different times, and commissioned many famous monuments and works of art, including Bernini's Ecstasy of St Theresa in the Cornaro Chapel of Santa Maria della Vittoria, Rome (1652). In Greece the island of Scarpanto was their fief from the early 14th century until the Ottoman conquest.
Other Cornaros (possibly related) include:
Vitsentzos Kornaros (1553–1614), Cretan poet
Elena Cornaro Piscopia (1646–1684), first woman to get a Doctor of Philosophy degree (from the University of Padua in 1678)Cristina Roccati
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The University of Padua (Italian: Università degli Studi di Padova, UNIPD) is a premier Italian university located in the city of Padua, Italy. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a school of law and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. Padua is the second-oldest university in Italy and the world's fifth-oldest surviving university. In 2010 the university had approximately 65,000 students, in 2016 was ranked "best university" among Italian institutions of higher education with more than 40,000 students, and in 2018 best Italian university according to ARWU ranking.Women in Italy
Women in Italy refers to females who are from (or reside) in Italy. The legal and social status of Italian women has undergone rapid transformations and changes during the past decades. This includes family laws, the enactment of anti-discrimination measures, and reforms to the penal code (in particular with regard to crimes of violence against women).