Biographical Encyclopedia of Astronomers

2014 Edition
| Editors: Thomas Hockey, Virginia Trimble, Thomas R. Williams, Katherine Bracher, Richard A. Jarrell, Jordan D. MarchéII, JoAnn Palmeri, Daniel W. E. Green

da Novara, Domenico Maria

  • Giancarlo Truffa
Reference work entry

Alternate Names

 Novara, Domenico Maria da;  Ploti Ferrariensis

Born Ferrara, Italy, 29 July or 1 August 1454

Died Bologna, Italy, 15 or 18 August 1504

Domenico da Novara was a teacher of   Nicolaus Copernicus .

Domenico’s family name was Ploti; they originated in Novara, a city in northwestern Italy, and later moved to Ferrara in northeastern Italy, where Domenico was born. He obtained both the title of Doctor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine, but we do not know at which university he studied. A possible record of his education is contained in an astrological text ascribed to Dominicus. The author testifies he was a pupil of   Johann Müller (Regiomontanus), who traveled in Italy between 1460 and 1467 and later between 1472 and 1475 and lived in various Italian cities for long periods, including Ferrara. In any case, da Novara taught astronomy at Bologna University from 1483 till his death.

During this period da Novara was requested to publish prognostications for every year; many of them (in Italian and Latin) have survived and represent the only works we know by him. Apart from the astrological judgments they contain, the interesting parts of these publications are the preambles, where he discusses his scientific and philosophical theories.

The most famous was the prologue for the prognostication of 1489, in which da Novara presented his theory on the shift of the terrestrial polar axis. This was based on the comparison of the latitudes of Cádiz in Spain and several places in Italy, determined in his own time, with those reported in   Ptolemy ’s Geography. His conclusions were wrong, because they were based on unreliable data, but they are important because they represent one of the first attempts to suppose an Earth not at rest.

From later sources we know da Novara computed the obliquity of the ecliptic in 1492, obtaining a value very close to the actual one for this year.

Between the end of 1496 and the beginning of 1497, Copernicus registered in the Public Register of the German College in Bologna University. No record of his life in Bologna can be found in Copernicus’s works, but   Rheticus later reported that Copernicus lived in da Novara’s house and helped him in his astronomical observations. Three of these observations are indeed reported by Copernicus: the observation of Aldebaran eclipsed by the Moon on 9 March 1497 and the observations of the conjunction of Saturn with the Moon on 9 January 1500 and 4 March 1500.

Selected References

  1. Bilinski, Bronislaw (1975). Alcune considerazioni su Niccolò Copernico e Domenico Maria Novara (Bologna 1497–1500). Wrocław: Ossolineum.Google Scholar
  2. Biskup, Marian (1973). Regesta Copernicana(Calendar of Copernicus’ Papers). Studia Copernicana, Vol. 8. Wroclaw: Ossolineum, pp. 39–42.Google Scholar
  3. Bònoli, F. and D. Piliarvu (2001). I lettori di astronomia presso lo Studio di Bologna: dal XII al XX secolo. Bologna CLUEB, pp. 118–121.Google Scholar
  4. Bònoli, F., A. C. Colavita, and C. Mataix Loma (1995). “L'ambiente culturale bolognese del Quattrocento attraverso Domenico Maria Novara e la sua influenza in Nicolò Copernico.” Memorie della Società astronomica italiana66: 871–880.ADSGoogle Scholar
  5. Bonoli, F., Bezza G., De Mesi S., Colavita C. eds “Pronostici Di Domenico Maria da Novara” Firenze: Leo S. olschki 2012Google Scholar
  6. Goddu, Andre (2010) Copernicus and the Aristotelian Tradition.Leiden, Brill, pp. 187–193.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Jacoli, Ferdinando (1877). “Intorno alla determinazione di Domenico Maria Novara, dell'obliquità dell'eclittica.” Bullettino di bibliografia e di storia delle scienze matematiche e fisiche10: 75–88.MATHGoogle Scholar
  8. Prowe, Leopold (1883). Nicolaus Coppernicus. Berlin, Weidmann, Vol. 1, pp. 236–246.MATHGoogle Scholar
  9. Rosen, Edward (1975). “Copernicus and His Relation to Italian Science.” In Convegno internazionale sul tema Copernico e la cosmologia moderna, Rome: Accademia nazionale dei Lincei, pp. 27–38.Google Scholar
  10. Sighinolfi, Lino (1920). “Domenico Maria Novara e Nicolò Copernico allo Studio di Bologna.” Studi e memorie per la storia dell'Università di Bologna, ser. 1, 5: 207–236.Google Scholar
  11. Thorndike, Lynn (1941). A History of Magic and Experimental Science. New York: Columbia University Press, Vol. 5, pp. 234–236.Google Scholar
  12. Westman, Robert S. (1993). “Copernicus and the Prognosticators: The Bologna Period, 1496–1500.” Universitas, no. 5: 1–5.Google Scholar
  13. Westman, Robert S. (2011). The Copernican Question. Prognostication, Skepticism, and Celestial Order, Berkeley, University of California Press, pp. 87–99.Google Scholar
  14. Zinner, Ernst (1990). Regiomontanus: His Life and Work, translated by Ezra Brown. Amsterdam: North-Holland, pp. 240–241.MATHGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Giancarlo Truffa
    • 1
  1. 1.MilanItaly