Giambattista della Porta  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Giambattista della Porta (1535? - 1615), also known as Giovan Battista Della Porta, was an Italian scholar, polymath and playwright who lived in Naples at the time of the Scientific Revolution and Reformation. Born in that city to Italian nobility, Giambattista della Porta spent the majority of his life on scientific endeavors. He benefited from an informal education of tutors and visits from renowned scholars. His most famous work, first published in 1558, was entitled Magiae Naturalis (Natural Magic). In this book he covered a variety of the subjects he had investigated, including the study of: occult philosophy, astrology, alchemy, mathematics, meteorology, and natural philosophy.


  • Natural Magic 1558 expanded to 20 books 1589. English translation 1658. Available online at *De furtivis Literarum Notis (1563) On secret codes and Cryptography
  • Villa (1583-92) An agricultural encyclopaedia
  • De humana physiognomonia libri IIII (1586) On Physiognomy
  • De refractione optices (1589) On Optics
  • Elementorum curvilineorum libri duo (1601)
  • Coelestis Physiogranonia (1603) pub. Naples
  • De aeris transmutanionbus (1609) On Meteorology
  • De distillatione (1610) Della Porta's chemical experiments and observations.
  • De Miracoli & Maravigliosi Effetti dalla Natura prodotti (1665) pub. Venice

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