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Seminar on History and Philosophy of Science

Thursday, February 23, 2023
4:00pm to 5:30pm
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Dabney Hall 110 (Treasure Room)
Pinocchio's Ancestry: a Social and Cultural History of Automata in the North Italian Renaissance
Cristiano Zanetti, Postdoctoral Scholar Fellowship Trainee in the History of Science, Caltech,

Abstract: Between the Middle Ages and the early modern period, one can find in the areas of Milan, Venice and Florence the development of very sophisticated engineering traditions. These were among the most thriving early modern cultures of machines, and they have been studied for their seminal influences on the development of European useful machines, which are traditionally related to military and civil engineering. Surprisingly, the most elaborate mechanical achievements of Renaissance Italy seem not to belong to such a positivist idea of utility, but to those functions directed at animating a symbolic organism that conveyed a multi-layered intellectual message, often undecipherable to our contemporary eye. In these contexts, automata embodied both powerful political symbolism and ground-breaking technological innovations. For instance, planetary automata were among the most complicated state-funded machines of the Italian Renaissance. In this presentation I will address the following questions, in an attempt to explore the cultural and social history of Italian Renaissance automata. Which automata were built in these geographical areas? Who funded their construction and why? Who made them? What was their relationship to "useful machines" and to the Classical tradition? And, what can we learn from the automata of the Italian Renaissance?

Università Ca' Foscari, Venezia - Caltech, Pasadena
Horizon Europe Marie Curie programme, G.A. No 101025015

For more information, please contact Fran Tise by phone at 626-395-3609 or by email at [email protected].