BorGal focuses on the Italian physiologist, physicist, and mathematician Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608-1679), an outstanding figure of ‘Galileo’s school‘.

Even after Galileo’s condamnation in 1633, he continued to assert a natural philosophy that combined experimental practice and theoretical concerns. In defiance of censorship, against Aristotle, he used atoms and motion to explain a vast range of natural phenomena: plagues, eruptions, mechanical forces, planetary motions (Newton had his book on his desk!), even the human body.

Borelli’s career is emblematic of the kind of employment opportunities which Early modern Italy offered to a mathematician. He earned a living by teaching mathematics at the Universities (Messina; Pisa) or benefitted from the patronage of aristocrats (Tuscany, Naples, Rome) and religious congregations (Rome) [1].

He shaped the academic geography of the ‘new’ science all over Italy, acting as a University teacher, as well as as a ‘talent scout’ on behalf of public institutions and religious orders [2].

He was also deeply involved in academic life. The leader of the ‘neoteroi’ within the Accademia del Cimento in Tuscany, he also strongly influenced the ‘public sphere’. In Messina (Sicily), he was among the ‘ideologues’ of the Accademia della Fucina, a breeding-ground of political dissent against the Spanish government. In Papal Rome, where he spent his last days, he was the main reference point pro or con for all the public academies and informal circles of natural philosophy. [3]

Despite his unquestionable value, Borelli has never been the object of a monographic research; only a few of his works have been published according to modern criteria and a complete edition of his epistolary is still lacking. In 2020 a project sponsored by Museo Galileo is underway. Drawing a complete catalogue of Borelli’s correspondence is the foremost of BorGal’s objectives.

Borelli’s life and work shows that Galileo’s (disputed) legacy was not only a Tuscan heritage and that the 17th century Italian scientific ‘Republic of Letters’ was a whole, complex and intertwined community, that included also (but how?) the alleged ’peripheral’ Spanish Sicily. BorgGal aims at drawing the map of this whole community.

Borelli’s freedom of thought about Nature coupled with his standing for political dissent. This coincidence makes him a unique case to investigate the relation between science, religion and politics in the Catholic South of Early Modern Europe. Assuming a relational perspective and taking advantage of digital tools, BorGal aims at reconstructing his (possibly overlapping) networks.

BorGal has been conceived as a case study among the projects gathered under the umbrella of Mapping the Republic of Letters at Stanford University. It has been taking advantage of infrastructure, research support, and intellectual community of CESTA, the Stanford Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis. More particularly, BorGal is increasing with the digital support of Nodegoat, developed by the Dutch Lab1100.