Giovanni Poleni

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Folding sprout wheel from Poleni

Giovanni Poleni (born August 23, 1683 in Venice , † November 15, 1761 in Padua ) was an Italian mathematician and astronomer .


Poleni first completed a degree in philosophy and theology in Venice and began a legal career, but was introduced to mathematics and astronomy by his father, so that from 1709 he held a professorship in astronomy at the University of Padua , and from 1715 an additional one in physics . He dealt there with problems of hydraulics in connection with irrigation in Lombardy .

In 1719 he took over the chair of mathematics in Padua as the successor to Nikolaus II Bernoulli .

Since 1738 he ran his own laboratory, in which he undertook physical experiments, about which he also gave lectures. In addition to hydraulics and astronomy, his subjects of investigation also included archeology and meteorology . Many of his results were also put into practice, such as his studies on ship anchors , cranes and pulley blocks .

In 1709 he published the construction drawings of a wooden calculating machine with a weight drive. This works on the basis of gears with a variable number of teeth, the so-called sprocket wheels . The realization of his machine failed due to the production possibilities at the time, so that Poleni destroyed his machine by hand.

In 1748 he wrote an expert opinion on the statics of the dome in St. Peter's Basilica on behalf of the Pope , which Thomas Le Seur , Rugjer Josip Bošković and François Jacquier were also independently commissioned in 1742 . For this he assumed that the support line ran in the form of a chain line and obtained experimentally by constructing a chain line with a relative weight distribution similar to the dome in St. Peter's Basilica (projected into the dome he could show that it ran within the masonry).

In 1710 he was appointed a member of the Royal Society at the suggestion of Isaac Newton . From 1715 he was a foreign member of the Royal Prussian Society of Sciences and from 1739 of the Académie des Sciences in Paris. In 1725 he became an honorary member of the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg .

The Poleni formula for the discharge over a weir or overflow edge is named after Poleni, see overflow coefficient .

Fonts (selection)

De motu aquae (1717)
  • De vorticibus coelestibus dialogus: qui accedit quadratura circuli Archimedis. Padua 1712.
  • De physices in rebus mathematicis utilitate: praelectio . Padua 1716.
  • Utriusque thesauri antiquitatum romanarum graecarumque nova supplementa Venice 1737.
  • Exercitationes Vitruvianae primae, hoc est Ioannis Poleni Commentarius criticus de M. Vitruvii Pollionis Architecti X. Padua 1739. (Commentary on Vitruvius )
  • Institutionum philosophiae mechanicae specimen . Padua 1741. (Lecture on mechanical experiments)
  • Memorie istoriche della gran cupola del Tempio Vaticano . Padua 1748. (Over the dome of St. Peter's Basilica ) ( digitized on e-rara )
  • Sexti Julii Frontini De aquae ductibus urbis Romae commentarius . Padua 1749. Edition and commentary on an ancient work by Sextus Julius Frontinus on the water supply in Rome.
  • Del Teatro Olimpico Di Andrea Palladio In Vicenza . Padua 1749. (About the Theater in Vicenza by Andrea Palladio ).


  • Giovanni Poleni (1683-1761) nel bicentenario della morte . Padua: Accademia patavina di scienze lettere ed arti, 1963
  • Gian Antonio Salandin & Maria Pancino: Il "teatro" di filosofia sperimentale di Giovanni Poleni . Trieste: Lint, 1987
  • Maria Laura Soppelsa (Ed.): Giovanni Poleni: idraulico matematico architetto filologo (1683 - 1761). Atti della giornata di studi Padova 15 March 1986 . Padua: Accademia Patavina di Scienze Lettere ed Arti, 1988
  • Karl-Eugen Kurrer : The History of the Theory of Structures. Searching for Equilibrium , Ernst & Sohn 2018, p. 227, p. 266, p. 922f and p. 1047 (biography), ISBN 978-3-433-03229-9 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The illustration can be found, for example, in Heyman, Structural Analysis - a historical approach, Cambridge UP, 1998, p. 90
  2. ^ List of members since 1666: Letter P. Académie des sciences, accessed on February 5, 2020 (French).
  3. ^ Foreign members of the Russian Academy of Sciences since 1724: Poleni, Giovanni de, Marquis. Russian Academy of Sciences, accessed February 5, 2020 (Russian).