Boscovich, Ruggero Giuseppe, 1711-1787

Alternative names
Birth 1711-05-18
Death 1787-02-13
Latin, Italian, English, French, Croatian

Biographical notes:

Rudjer Josip Boskovic was a mathematian and natural philosopher. Croation by birth, he spent most of his life in Rome and Milan, but also lived briefly in Paris and London.

From the description of Papers, [ca. 1730-1786]. (Unknown). WorldCat record id: 173466252

Italian mathematician and natural philosopher.

From the description of Ruggero Giuseppe Boscovich papers, 1711-1787. (University of California, Berkeley). WorldCat record id: 84912805

Biographical Information

Rudjer Josip Boscovich, Yugoslavian mathematician and natural philosopher, was born in Dalmatia at Ragusa on May 18, 1711. In 1725, at the age of fifteen, he entered the Society of Jesus, beginning his studies in mathematics and physics at Collegio Romano, the preeminent Jesuit college. After completing his novitiate in 1740, Boscovich was appointed professor of mathematical science at the Collegio where he continued to teach for twenty years, publishing many dissertations on topics such as sunspots, the Aurora Borealis, the effects of gravity, and the transit of Mercury.

He soon became well known all over Europe and was made a Fellow of the Royal Society of London. His prominence as a mathematician earned him commissions from Pope Benedict XIV in 1742 to reinforce the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica and to survey the meridian of the Papal States. It is widely believed that it was due to Boscovich's influence that the same Pope removed Copernicus from the Index of Forbidden Books.

He is credited with developing the first description of atomic theory, which was published in his principal work: Philosophiae Naturalis Theoria redacta ad unicam legem virium in natura existentium, or A Theory of Natural Philosophy Reduced to a Single Law of the Actions Existing in Nature.

Boscovich was appointed chair of mathematics at the University of Pavia in 1764. While still holding this position, he was invited by the Jesuits in Milan to erect an observatory at their college at Brera, where he eventually became director. In 1769 the London Academy offered to send Boscovich to lead an expedition to California to observe the transit of Venus, but the Suppression of the Jesuits by enemies of the church in Europe made this an impossibility.

In 1772, he was invited by King Louis XV to become director of optics for the navy in Paris, a position he held for over ten years. Although he had become a naturalized citizen of France, he returned to Italy in 1783 continuing his scientific and literary work. Boscovich died in Milan in 1787.

From the guide to the Ruggero Giuseppe Boscovich papers, 1711-1787, (The Bancroft Library)


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  • Astronomy
  • Electricity--Early works to 1850
  • Physics--Early works to 1800
  • Optics--Early works to 1800
  • Geometry
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  • Physics
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  • Italy--Rome (as recorded)
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