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

delle Colombe, Lodovico

Reference work entry

Alternate Names

 Colombe, Lodovico delle;  Colombo, Ludovico delle

BornFlorence(Italy), 1565

DiedFlorence(Italy), circa1617

Lodovico delle Colombe was a “philosopher, astrologer, mathematician and poet, ultimately an erudite man” (Ruspoli). He was acknowledged for his strong opposition to Galileo Galilei both on physical and astronomical grounds.

According to Favaro, delle Colombe was born in 1566 (even if, as Favaro himself wrote, in compliance with the Florentine calendar, the year should be 1565). Delle Colombe came from an aristocratic family. He was a member of the Florentine Academy and of the Consiglio dei Dugento (the Council of 200). One of his brothers, Raffaello delle Colombe (1557–1627), Prior of Santa Maria Novella, was a Dominican preacher who supported   Aristotle ’s view of the cosmos in contrast with   Nicolaus Copernicus ’s system. Raffaello often thundered against Galileo who was also accused of having observed sunspots with his telescope, while according to the ancients, “the Sun has no blemish, nor does the mother of the sun, the Virgin Mary.” (For more details on Raffaello delle Colombe, see Guerrini, L. Galileo e la politica anticopernicana a Firenze. Florence: Polistampa, 2009.)

Rosselli, in a comment on a poem of Ruspoli’s, has given a description of delle Colombe: “a solitary and melancholy man, large in stature, thin (actually, extremely lean), with a long and very white beard, a small and completely bald head, and sunken eyes; he looked precisely like a ghost, and because of this Ruspoli used to call him the “Manager of Limbo.””

As regards delle Colombe’s death, it could have happened around 1617, since after this year there is no news of him. A letter sent by Gallanzone Gallanzoni (the Secretary of Cardinal François de Joyeuse) to Galileo could support this theory. Gallanzone Gallanzoni wrote: “I have greatly pitied on Mr. Colombo, because it seems to me that, among men of letters, he has been buried. Your Lordship should, in conscience, give him back the little reputation that he had among professors.” The statement has a double interpretation: It could refer to delle Colombe’s death or it could be a request of Galileo to rehabilitate delle Colombe’s reputation. Surely delle Colombe died before 1635, since in a letter sent by Fulgenzio Micanzio (Venetian canonist and theologian) to Galileo, talking about delle Colombe, he wrote “he was a philosopher or a muleteer.”

In 1606 delle Colombe published the book Discorso(Discourse), dedicated to Alessandro Marzi Medici (the archbishop of Florence), in which he asserted that the new star that appeared in October 1604 in Sagittarius was “not a comet or a generated star, not a new one, neither an apparent; but one of those who were at the origin in the sky; and this in accordance with philosophy, theology, and astronomical demonstrations.” Delle Colombe referred to the supernova appearing in 1604 (observed also by   Johannes Kepler ) and on which Galileo had given some lectures at Padua. As a peripatetic, delle Colombe argued that the star of 1604 was an old star belonging to the sphere of fixed stars, which, in conjunction with particular optical phenomena, became visible. He also attacked the “Genethliaci” or judicial astrologers who asserted that the human will was influenced by celestial powers. A certain Alimberto Mauri – a pseudonym, perhaps of Galileo – replied to delle Colombe (Considerazion[Considerations], 1606). Since delle Colombe had suspected that the author of the book was Galileo, he wrote a letter to him asking his excuse for having been doubtful. Delle Colombe responded to Mauri by publishing the book Risposte piacevoli e curiose(Pleasant and curious replies, 1608).

After the publication of Galileo’s Sidereus Nuncius(Sidereal Messenger, 1610), delle Colombe contested Galileo’s Copernican view of the cosmos by writing a pamphlet Contro il moto della Terra(Against the motion of the Earth). It was not printed, but circulated in manuscript form, mostly in Florence.

In 1611 delle Colombe wrote to   Christoph Clavius trying to involve him in a dispute with Galileo on the irregularities of the Moon’s surface. Clavius did not answer him, as confirmed by a letter sent by the Italian painter Lodovico Cardi da Cigoli to Galileo, who disparagingly called delle Colombe “pippione” (pigeon). When Galileo received a copy of delle Colombe’s letter, he immediately wrote to Gallanzone Gallanzoni, confirming his opinion about the Moon’s surface, writing sharply against delle Colombe, ridiculing him and underlining his incompetence in astronomy. Delle Colombe was most likely aware of this letter, and he waited for an opportunity for revenge.

The occasion arrived in 1611, when Galileo was involved in a discussion with two of Pisa’s peripatetic professors, Vincenzo di Grazia and Giorgio Caresio, on buoyancy. The Aristotelians asserted that the shape of a body influenced its buoyancy, while Galileo, following   Archimedes sprinciples on hydrostatics, asserted that buoyancy was linked to the specific weight of the body. Delle Colombe seized the opportunity to challenge Galileo to carry out an experiment at (Canon) Francesco Nori’s house, but despite the agreement, delle Colombe defected from the appointment. Galileo threw the dispute back at delle Colombe with a public demonstration at Filippo Salviati’s house, but since the philosophical dispute already had degenerated, Galileo refused to be engaged in a verbal dispute, preferring to follow the advice of the grand Duke Cosimo II to set out his position in the book Discorso intorno alle cose che stanno in su lacqua(Discourse on bodies in water, 1612). In response to Galileo, delle Colombe published the Discorso apologetico(Apologetic discourse, 1612), and Vincenzo di Grazia wrote Considerazioni(Considerations, 1613). Galileo did not feel he had to answer to the philosophers, so he passed the task on to   Benedetto Castelli who, in 1615, published the book Risposta alle opposizioni(Response to the oppositions, 1615), which was widely emended by Galileo. Castelli made an extensive examination of the errors of both philosophers and a meticulous and very detailed refutation of their arguments.

Delle Colombe, almost surely, was one of those who incited the Church against Galileo, as attested by a letter sent by Matteo Caccini to his brother Tommaso, a Dominican preacher, who had thundered against Galileo and his followers. One of delle Colombe’s last attestations is a letter sent to Giovanni de’ Medici on 30 March 1616. In this letter delle Colombe was delighted to send to de’ Medici a copy of the decree, issued by the Sacred Congregation of the Index, with the list of some books (on the Copernican system) prohibited, condemned, and suspended by the Church.

Selected References

  1. Abetti, G. (1945). Amici e nemici di Galileo. (Friends and enemies of Galileo) Milan: Bompiani.Google Scholar
  2. Biagioli, M.(1993). Galileo Courtier. Chicago: Chicago University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Drake, S. (1970). “The Dispute Over Bodies in Water.” Galileo Studies. Ann Arbor: 159–176Google Scholar
  4. Favaro, A. (1911). La prosa di Galileo. (Galileo’s prose) Florence: Sansoni.Google Scholar
  5. Galilei, G. (1890–1895). Le Opere diGalileo Galilei. (Galileo Galilei’s works) Edizione nazionale. (Vol. 5) Florence: Barbera.Google Scholar
  6. Galilei, G. (1965). Le Opere di Galileo Galilei. (Galileo Galilei’s works) Nuova Ristampa della Edizione Nazionale. (Vol. 20) Florence: Barbera.Google Scholar
  7. Heilbron, J.L. (2010). Galileo. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Negri, G. (1722). Istoria degli scrittori fiorentini. (History of Florentine writers) Ferrara: Arnaldo Forni.Google Scholar
  9. Ruspoli, F. (1882). Poesie di Francesco Ruspoli. (Poems of Francesco Ruspoli) with comments of Stefano Rosselli. Livorno: Franc. Vigo.Google Scholar
  10. Salvini, S. (1717). Fasti consolari dellAccademia Fiorentina. (List of consuls of Florentine Academy) Florence: Tartini.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Università del MoliseCampobassoItaly