Giovanni Poleni

Biography of Giovanni Poleni (1683–1761)

Giovanni Poleni was born on 23rd of August, 1683, in Venice, Italy, to Jacopo Poleni (1655-1737) and Elisabetta Broiuola. In the same 1683, Jacopo Poleni took part and displayed a lot of courage in the battle against Turks during the Siege of Vienna, and Emperor Leopold I awarded him for his merits in June, 1685, with the titles "Marquis, Count of St. Michael the Archangel, and Knight, along with his descendants". So, yet 1 y.o., the only son of the family, Giovanni, became a Marquis, what a remarkable beginning of his life:-)

As a young man Giovanni showed brilliance in a wide variety of different subjects and it was clear that he was extraordinarily talented. His parents encouraged him to begin a judicial career but, after being introduced to mathematics and science by his father, it was clear that he had now found the subjects which gave him most satisfaction.

He began his studies in Venice, where he studied philosophy and then theology. He accepted the chair of Astronomy and Meteorology at the University of Padua in 1709. For over 40 years he kept outstandingly accurate meteorological records which have proved invaluable to later scientists. In the same 1709 he published his first book—Miscellanea: de barometris et thermometris; de machina quadam arithmetica; de sectionibus conicis in horologiis solaribus describendis, a collection of dissertations on physics, in which he included a description of a very interesting calculating machine.

University of PaduaIn 1715 he became professor of physics, in addition holding the chair of Astronomy and Meteorology. Poleni was invited by the Venetian Senate to investigate the problem of hydraulics relating to the irrigation of Lower Lombardy. He was appointed to the chair of mathematics at Padua in 1719 which had been vacated by Nicolaus Bernoulli. In 1717 he published a major treatise on hydraulics and hydrodynamics—De motu aquae mixto libri duo, which describes estuaries, ports and rivers.

In 1710 Poleni was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of London. In 1715 he was honoured by being proposed by Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, a correspondent of him, for election to the Berlin Academy of Science in 1715.

Giovanni PoleniPoleni observed a solar eclipse in 1724 and wrote a treatise on the topic which was published in the following year. From 1739 he taught experimental physics, since by this time he had available a physics laboratory.

In 1738 Poleni acquired a laboratory to conduct physics experiments. It was the first physics laboratory to be established in an Italian university. In 1739 Poleni was elected to the Académie des Sciences in Paris.

In 1743 he was invited by the Pope and get a significant contribution to consolidation of San Pietro's dome in Roma.

Poleni was appointed to the chair of Nautical Studies and Naval Construction at Padua in 1756. From this time he taught nautical sciences and shipbuilding.

A music-lover, Poleni was the patron of Giuseppe Tartini (1692-1770)—a famous italian composer and violinist.

In 1708, obeying his father, Giovanni Poleni married to Orsola Roberti (1686-1737), who was from a high ranking and noble Bassano del Grappa family. The family had six children. The first-born was Jacopo (1709-1747), a very talented boy and Eugenio (1717-1736), who was destined to give succession to the family, but died only 18 years old, to the severe grief of Marquis Giovanni, who in 14 months lost three dear people—his son, his wife and his father. One of Poleni's daughters was Elisabetta Poleni, marchesa Pontedera.

Giovanni Poleni died (from aortic aneurysm) on 15th November, 1761, in Padua, Italy.