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The melting pot of science and belief: studying Vesuvius in seventeenth‐century Naples

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Abstract:

In December 1631, after more than 300 years of inactivity, Vesuvius erupted causing widespread damage. These were the first eruptions of Vesuvius in early modern times, and they coincided with the birth of modern scientific enquiry. They were also the first eruptions to occur after the upheavals of the Reformation and the reassertion of traditional Catholic doctrine and piety following the Council of Trent. The eruptions provoked a considerable number of publications ranging from theoretical treatises to philosophical dialogues, journals giving eyewitness accounts, and poems in both Latin and Italian. Many of these publications emanated from the numerous academies of Naples and were dedicated to leading figures in the politics and culture of the Regno. There is some sound scientific discussion in these publications, but they also testify in different ways and with varying emphases to the persistence of both orthodox Catholic belief and popular superstition. In this article I consider the relative emphases in a select number of these publications between serious science, the persistence of orthodox religious belief and the continuing humanist debt to classical literature.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1477-4658.2011.00766.x

Affiliations: Royal Holloway, University of London

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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