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Buonamici, Francesco


(b. Florence, Italy, 1533; d. Orticaia, in the municipality of Dicomano, Italy, 29 September 1603)

medicine,natural philosophy. For the original article on Buonamici see DSB, vol. 2.

Since William Wallace’s DSB article, scholars’ knowledge of Buonamici’s thought has been substantially extended by the valuable monograph of Mario Otto Helbing, La filosofia di Francesco Buonamici, professore di Galileo Pisa (1989). Relying on a careful study of Buonamici’s huge treatise “On Motion” (De Motu), Helbing has changed the view of Buonamici as a very traditional and conservative Aristotelian, who was tightly linked to a scholastic philosophical background.

Indeed, thanks to his outstanding competence in reading Greek texts, Buonamici was familiar with a number of classical authors, whose theories he discussed, often in great detail, in his De motu. Furthermore, he took also into account some major achievements of the scientific debate of his age, examining, for example, such subjects as the Copernican system of the world and the renaissance of Archimedean hydrostatics. Thus, despite Buonamici’s firm allegiance to Aristotle, his thought turns out to be richer and more complex than one could believe before Helbing’s contribution.

Life. Buonamici was born in 1533, very likely in Florence, where his father served as a notary. He studied philosophy and medicine at the University of Pisa, and he was friend and disciple of two eminent philologists of the age, Pier Vettori and Ciriaco Strozzi, under whose guidance he gained an excellent competence in reading Greek texts. In 1565 Buonamici became assistant professor (extraordinarius) of philosophy at the University of Pisa. Then, in 1571, he became full professor (ordinarius) of natural philosophy, with the duty of teaching Aristotle’s De caelo, De Anima, and Physica in three-year cycles. He stayed at the University of Pisa all his life, although after 1598 he was asked to succeed Francesco Piccolomini on the chair of natural philosophy in Padua. He died in his holding of Orticaia, a hamlet in the municipality of Dicomano (about 25 miles away from Florence), 29 September 1603.

Before his death, Buonamici published a book on nourishment and embryology, De alimento, printed in Florence in 1603. The book deals with the nature of food (De alimenti essentia), the first properties of food and excrements (De primis affectionibus alimenti et excrementorum), the external food and its appetite (De alimento externo eiusque appetitu), the making of the fetus (De formatione foetus), the development of the fetus (De consequentibus foetus).

De Motu. Buonamici’s relevance for the history of science is mainly connected to his very thorough and detailed study of motion, carried out from an Aristotelian standpoint. His huge De motu libri X (1,011 pages plus 20 pages of index, in folio) covers the whole range of aspects of Aristotle’s concept of motion, which is not limited only to local motion (latio), but encompasses all kinds of changes, be it alteration, increase and decrease, or coming into being and passing away (generatio et corruptio). Buonamici supplies a careful survey of the topic, with an extended discussion of the Aristotelian views as well as of the opinions of a number of ancient and early modern authors who played a major (sometimes innovative) role in philosophical debate of the sixteenth century. To cite only a few of them, one can mention Lucretius, Proclus, Plutarch, Pseudo-Aristotle, Pappus, John Philoponus, Theon, Archimedes, Nicolaus Copernicus, Pereira, Ludovico Boccadiferro, Christoph Clavius, Zabarella, and Toletus.

Buonamici’s relationships with Galileo Galilei are well documented, though the link (originally suggested by Antonio Favaro) between Buonamici’s De motu and Galileo’s early writings on Aristotelian natural philosophy (the Juvenilia) has been in recent years shown to be groundless. Galileo studied at the University of Pisa under Buonamici, whose work he attacked in the Discourse on Bodies in Water(1612), explicitly referring to Buonamici’s interpretation of Archimedes’s hydrostatics. A reference to Buonamici’s book can also be found in one of the notes Galileo wrote on Giulio Cesare Lagalla’s De phoenomenis in orbe lunae. Furthermore, as noticed by Helbing (1989, pp. 64–71, 345–371), besides these explicit references, there are many implicit references to Buonamici’s De motu in several of Galileo’s later works. From these evidences it seems plausible to maintain that Galileo occasionally used Buonamici’s long treatise on motion as a source for mastering Aristotelian natural philosophy.

Buonamici’s major work remains the De motu, completed in 1587, but issued in 1591. The treatise is divided in ten books. In the first one, Buonamici establishes his method, giving the rules to be followed in natural research. The second book provides the definition of motion, touching the problems of its continuity and its relationship with quiet. The third and the fourth books discuss the motion of the elements, mainly surveying the role of the form in producing it, with interesting digressions on the motion in the void and on acceleration in free fall. In the fifth book, Buonamici, after discussing Copernican cosmology, examines the concepts of heaviness (gravitas) and lightness (levitas), expounding his views on the fall of heavy bodies. The next books till the eighth are devoted to aspects of motus different from the local motion, such as the substantial transformation, the generation, the increasing and decreasing, the condensation and rarefaction, the alteration, and the intension and remission of qualities. The last two books deal with the celestial circulation and its movers, the matter of heavens, the eternity and perfection of the world, and finally with God, who Buonamici, echoing Epicurus, outlines as an entity which eternally contemplates itself without any worry about human events.

Motion of Elements. A remarkable feature of the De motu concerns the reason that urged Buonamici to compose his bulky treatise. He explained that he wrote the book as a result of a controversy on the question of the motion of the elements, in which he quarrelled with other professors of the University of Pisa. Most likely, among Buonamici’s opponents in the quarrel there was his colleague Girolamo Borro, a strong advocate of Averroës’s views. By contrast, Buonamici mainly followed the Greek Aristotle’s commentators. The quarrel must have arisen from the problem of the fall of light and heavy bodies (quaestio de motu gravium et levium), which was a very controversial issue among Renaissance Aristotelians. The quaestio concerned, in the first place, the local motion of the elements, and, by implication, also the motion of natural bodies. In accordance to Aristotelian physics, their motions depended on the dynamical tendency of the element predominant in their composition.

Several hundred pages of Buonamici’s De motu are devoted to the rebuttal of Averroës’s views on the motion of the elements and to support the theories of Alexander of Aphrodisias, Themistius, and Simplicius. Indeed, all along his huge treatise, Buonamici shows a rather hostile attitude toward medieval philosophers. As a pupil of the distinguished philologist Pier Vettori, he was a true admirer of classical antiquity, holding the medieval Latini in some contempt. Therefore, it seems not correct to portray him as follower of the scholastic philosophical trend (as Alexandre Koyré did in his Études galiléennes), or to define him as William Wallace does in his article in DSB as “an orthodox and traditional Aristotelian who cites the views of moderns (iuniores) mainly to refute them” (p. 590). Quite the contrary, even if Buonamici was a firm advocate of Aristotelian philosophy, his thought, permeated of classical influences and willing to take into account the opinions of modern authors, can more correctly be described as a product of the new renaissance learning.

Influence. Some of the main topics treated in the Pisan debate on motion resonate also in the pages of Galileo’s early writings on dynamics, the De motu antiquiora. In particular, there are implicit references to Buonamici’s work in the discussion of the questions of falling bodies and of Archimedean extrusion.

As for the first subject, Galileo, in chapter 22 of his treatise De motu antiquiora, discusses the problem of the fall of bodies of different matters (wood, lead, and iron), in direct reference to the accounts already provided by Buonamici and by his rival, Borro. All of them (Borro, Buonamici, and Galileo) resorted to experimental evidence as a way to corroborate their own theories. From this point of view the famous leaning tower experiment, allegedly performed by Galileo at the time in which he composed his early writings on dynamics, seems to be rooted in a tradition of experimental research shared also by Borro and Buonamici, as well as by other Pisan professors, such as Jacopo Mazzoni and Giorgio Coresio (see Michele Camerota and Helbing, 2000, pp. 334–345).

Furthermore, Buonamici’s De motu developed a strong criticism of Archimedean extrusion. His arguments were explicitly directed against the mathematicians (contra mathematicos), and they were also devoted to reply to some modern authors (neoterici) who raised objections to the standard view of the motion of heavy bodies in media. In particular, Buonamici argued that the upward motion of bodies extruded by the medium would be decelerating, and not accelerating like all natural motion. Against this view, in several places of the De motu antiquiora, Galileo defended Archimedean extrusion, claiming that it was not necessary for the body to decelerate in upward motion, because the mover was joined to the body. It seems therefore that the question of extrusion must have been a subject discussed during the Pisan debate on the motion of the elements, and that Galileo’s replies to the critics of Archimedean extrusion were mainly addressed to answer Buonamici’s arguments (Camerota and Helbing, 2000, pp. 345–363).

A pupil of Buonamici, Scipione Aquilani, in a book on Greek pre-Aristotelian philosophy (De placitis philosophorum qui ante Aristotelis tempora floruerunt, Venice, 1620), portrayed his teacher as “the fiercest advocate of the Peripatetic doctrine.” Despite Buonamici’s reputation as acerrimus Peripateticae doctrinae defensor, his De motu can nevertheless be considered as a valuable source for the knowledge of renaissance natural philosophy as well as of the intellectual context in which Galileo matured his early theories on motion.



De motu libri X. Florence, Italy: Semartelli, 1591. Also available from

Discorsi poetici nell’Accademia Fiorentina in difesa d’Aristotile. Florence, Italy: Marescotti, 1597. Also available from

De alimento libri V ubi multae medicorum sententiae delibantur et cum Aristotele conferuntur. Florence, Italy: Semartelli, 1603. Two letters to Pier Vettori published in Angelo Maria Bandini, Clarorum Italorum et Germanorum epistolae ad Petrum Vettorium. Florence, Italy: Praesidium facultate, 1758.

An mens sit forma assistens an informans. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence: Magliab. 12: 40, ff. 2r–8r.

De logica ad Laelium Taurellum. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence: Magliab. 8:49.

Lectiones super primo et secundo Meteororum. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence: Magliab. 12: 29, ff. 45r–422r.

Letter to Benedetto Varchi. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence: Magliab. 2. 4. 64. In Latin.

Letters to Lorenzo Giacomini. Florence, Italy: Biblio Riccardiana, 2438.

Letters to Giambattista Strozzi. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence: Magliab. 8.1899.

Letters to Piero Strozzi. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence, Magliab. 2. 5. 164, ff. 90r–91v.

Letters to Benedetto Varchi. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence: Magliab. 2. 5. 164, f. 92rv.

Letters to Baccio Valori. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence: Rinucc. F 27.

Letters to Pier Vettori. London: British Library, 10, 264. In Italian.

Lettione dell’eccellentisismo filosofo Francesco Buonamici recitata nella felicissima Accademia Fiorentina (dated 1569). Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence: Magliab. 9. 125.

Porphyrii de abstinentia a esu carnium libri quattuor F. Buonamico interprete. Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence. Conv. Sopp. C.10.879. This is a Latin translation from the Greek of the work of Porphyry on the abstinence from eating meat.

Quaestio de primo cognito (dated 1565). Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale of Florence: Fondo Naz. 2. 5. 164.


Badaloni, Nicola. Il periodo pisano nella formazione del pensiero di Galileo. Florence, Italy: Off-print, 1965.

Camerota, Michele, and Mario Helbing. “Galileo and Pisan Aristotelianism. Galileo’s De motu antiquiora and the Quaestiones de motu elementorum of the Pisan Professors.” Early Science and Medicine 5 (2000): 319–365.

Galluzzi, Paolo. Momento. Studi galileiani. Rome: Edizioni dell’Ateneo & Bizzarri, 1979. 115–118, 147–148, 153, 197.

Garin, Eugenio. Scienza e vita civile nel Rinascimento italiano. Bari, Italy: Laterza, 1965, 109–146. Reprint, 1985.

Helbing, Mario Otto. “I problemi De motu tra meccanica e filosofia nel Cinquecento. G. B. Benedetti e F. Buonamici.” In Cultura, scienze e tecniche nella Venezia del Cinquecento: Atti del convegno internazionale di studio “Giovan Battista Benedetti e il suo tempo,” 157–168. Venice, Italy: Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 1987.

———.La filosofia di Francesco Buonamici. Pisa, Italy: Nistri-Lischi, 1989. This is the most valuable study on Buonamici’s thought.

———. “Mobilità della Terra e riferimenti a Copernico nelle opere dei professori dello Studio di Pisa.” In La diffusione del Copernicanesimo in Italia, 1543–1610, edited by Massimo Bucciantini and Maurizio Torrini, 57–66. Florence, Italy: Olschki, 1997.

Ioffrida, Manlio. La filosofia e la medicina (1543–1737). In Storia dell’Università di Pisa. vol. 1.1, 239–338 (298–301). Pisa, Italy: Pacini, 1993.

Kraml, Hans. “Principle and Method: Francesco Buonamici’s version of Renaissance Aristotelianism.” In Method and Order in Renaissance Philosophy of Nature: The Aristotle Commentary Tradition, edited by Daniel A. Di Liscia, Eckhard Kessler, and Charlotte Methuen, 301–318. Aldershot, U.K.: Ashgate, 1997.

Lewis, Christopher. The Merton Tradition and Kinematics in Late Sixteenth and Early Seventeenth Century Italy. Padua, Italy: Antenore, 1980, 127–170.

Schmitt, Charles B. “The Faculty of Arts at Pisa at the Time of Galileo.” Physics 14 (1972): 243–273 (265–267, 270).

———. “The University of Pisa in the Renaissance.” History ofEducation 3 (1974): 3–17 (6–7, 12).

———. “Philoponus’ Commentary on Aristotle’s Physics in the Sixteenth Century.” In Philoponus and the Rejection of Aristotelian Science, edited by Richard Sorabji, 210–230 (222–225). London: Duckworth, 1987.

Schmitt, Charles B., and Quentin Skinner, eds. The CambridgeHistory of Renaissance Philosophy. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1988.

Thurot, Charles. “Recherches historiques sur le principe d’Archimède.” Revue archéologique (1869): 284–299 (297–299). This is an old, reliable account of Buonamici’s discussion of Archimedean hydrostatics.

Michele Camerota

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Buonamici, Francesco

Buonamici, Francesco

(b. Florence, Italy, first half of the sixteenth century; d. 1603)

medicine, natural philosophy.

Buonamici’s importance for the history of science derives less from his career as a Florentine physician than from his having taught physics at Pisa while Galileo was a student there, giving credence to the theory that Galileo’s Juvenilia (commonly held to be class notes written in 1584) were based on Bunonamici’s lectures. A copy of Buonamici’s De motu was in Galileo’s personal library; there are resemblances between portions of this and Galileo’s early writings (including Galileo’s De motu, composed ca. 1590), although Galileo later attacked Buonamici’s teachings in a discourse printed in 1612.

The full title of Buonamici’s principal work is De motu libri X, quibus generalia naturalis philosophiae principia summo studio collecta continentur.necnon universae quaestiones ad libros De physice audito, de Caelo, de Ortu et Interitu pertinentes explicantur; multa item Aristotelis loca explanantur, et Graecorum, Averrois, aliorumque doctorum sententiae ad theses peripateticas diriguntur (“Ten books on motion, in which are contained general principles of natural philosophy, culled with great care, and in which are worked out all questions relating to [Aristotle’s] books of the Physics, On the Heavens, and On Generation and Corruption; again, many texts of Aristotle are explained, and the opinions of the Greeks, of Averroës, and of other doctors are brought to bear on Peripatetic theses”). The work, as the title indicates, is more than a treatise on motion; it is a complete course in natural philosophy, consisting of 1,031 closely packed pages in the folio edition of 1591. The principles around which Buonamici organizes his course are the four causes of motion, or change; the various types of motion (straight-line, alteration, growth, and so forth); and the relation of motion to the heavenly bodies.

In content the work is a masterpiece of Renaissance eclecticism: Buonamici takes cognizance of the humanist tradition (for example, interspersing Greek poetry throughout the text) as well as of such Greek commentators on Aristotle as Alexander of Aphrodisias and John Philoponus; he cites approvingly such mathematicaians as Archimedes (at some length), Nicomachus, and Campanus; he gives attention to the Paduan Averroists and the various Platonic and Neoplatonic schools, ranging from the Arabs to the Florentine Academy; and he continually casts a respectful eye toward Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, and other Scholastics. His citation of authorities is pretentious but generally inaccurate, leading one to believe that he relied heavily on secondary sources; teachings he ascribes to Aquinas, for example, may have been held by contemporary Thomists but certainly are not to be found in Aquinas. He occasionally mentions such fourteenth-century thinkers as Walter Burley, the Calculator (Richard Swineshead), and Albert of Saxony, but he reports their contributions to the development of mechanics only superficially. Among his immediate predecessors and contemporaries, those who attract his attention include Alessandro Achillini and Ludovico Buccaferrea, both of Bologna; Francesco Vicomercati of Milan; Scaliger; and Cardano. Throughout his work Buonamici reveals himself generally as an orthodox and traditional Aristotelian who cites the views of “moderns” (iuniores) mainly to refute them.

In mechanics, Buonamici held a theory of “self-expending” (as opposed to inertial) impetus, and accepted uncritically the pretended initial acceleration of projectiles. He rejected the theory of “accidental” gravity invoked by Parisian terminists to explain the acceleration of bodies in free fall, maintaining that Aristotle’s explanation is sufficient. Similarly, he preferred Aristotle’s rules for calculating the ratios of motions, velocities, and distances of travel to those of Albert of Saxony and other “Latins,”, which he seems to have drawn from Achillini’s In quaestione de motuum proportionibus, a work of which he is generally critical.


I. Original Works. De motu libri X (Florence, 1591), in folio, is quite rare; a copy is in the library of princeton University; the work also exists in a 1592 edition, in quarto. Alexandre Koyré provides most of the Latin text, with French translation, of BK.4 , chs. 37–38, dealing with the increase of speed in natural motion; of BK . 5, chs. 35–36, dealing with projectile motion; and small portions of the Latin text of BK . 1, chs. 10–11, dealing with the relation of mathematics to physical science, in his Etudes galiléennes (Paris, 1939), pp. 18–41, 267–268, 279. There is a copy of Discorsi poetica nella Accademia fiorentina in difesa d’Aristotile… xix di settembre 1587 (Florence, 1597) in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris. Copies of De alimento libri V (Florence, 1603) are in the British Museum, London, and the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; ibid., Venice, 1604.

II. Secondary Literature. Some details concerning Buonamici may be found in J. H. Zedler, ed., Grossesvollständiges Universal-Lexikon, IV (Halle–Leipzig, 1733; repr. Graz, 1961), col. 569; Antonio Favaro, ed., Le opere di Galileo Galilei, Edizione Nazionale (Florence, 1890), esp. 1, 9–13; and I. E. Drabkin and Stillman Drake, eds., Galileo Galilei: On Motion and on Mechanics, Univ. of Wisconsin Publications in Medieval Science, no. 5 (Madison, Wis., 1960), provides and English translation of Galileo’s De motu, with introduction and notes by Drabkin, who calls attention to possible influences of Buonamici on Galileo, pp.10, 49n, 55n, 78n, 79n; see also the bibliography on pp.10–11.

William A. Wallace, O.P.

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