Fondazione Scienza e Tecnica - Firenze

The Physics Cabinet

fisica5 The Gabinetto di Fisica was created by Filippo Corridi who equipped it with a remarkable collection of instruments as a necessary support to the very ambitious teaching programmes

fisica

HISTORY AND ORIGINS OF THE PHYSICS CABINET

The Gabinetto di Fisica was created by Filippo Corridi, the Istituto Tecnico Toscano’s first Director, who equipped it with a remarkable collection of instruments as a necessary support to the very ambitious teaching programmes: “in order to promote the study of the sciences of application and the progress of the useful industries of the arts and of work procedures.”

Thanks to its variety and completeness, the Gabinetto di Fisica is a one-of-a-kind collection and constitutes the most lively and significant testimony of the Collections belonging to the Istituto Tecnico Toscano. Ever since its founding (in 1853), the Gabinetto has been equipped with “whatever may be needed especially for the school’s demonstrations and for the most delicate experiments. Among the many useful instruments, the Perreaux cathetometer, a Regnault eudiometer, the Natterer machine for the liquefaction of gases, the Duboscq large optical bench  for the projection of luminous phenomena, and the Ruhmkorff induction machine; the Babinet photometer, the Wheatstone wave-machine, the Duboscq apparatus  for projecting fantascopic designs; and the Amici microscope are worthy of mention”. A plethora of instrumentation exists for producing the energy necessary for the experiments: “a large stack of ninety Bunsen-type  elements, forty of which were made by Carraresi, the Florentine chemist, and fifty by Deleuil, a Parisian manufacturer”.

From the moment that classes began there (1857), thanks to Gilberto Govi, the first teacher of Technological Physics, and above all to the success of his evening lessons, the Gabinetto was continually enriched by new pieces of equipment necessary to the study of experimental physics These were  built in the Machine Workshop of the Istituto or acquired from the most renown French, German and British makers who, at the time, were capable of producing the best scientific instruments on the market.

The Gabinetto subsequently grew in consistency under the impulse of the gifted teachers who succeeded each other (Emilio Villari, Antonio Roiti, Adolfo Bartoli, Eugenio Bazzi), who were almost all members of the Accademia dei Lincei.

But it was thanks to the work of Antonio Roiti that the Gabinetto di Fisica became a place of excellence for the teaching and experimentation of physics in Florence, a role that it maintained until the first decades of the last century.

During the years that he taught at the Istituto, namely from 1871 to 1878, he once again reorganised the existing collection of instruments in accordance with the method of classical physics, and gave new impulse to the teaching of experimental physics, thus favouring new and important acquisitions, above all for electricity and optics. When he stopped teaching at the Istituto in order to go to the University of Palermo, the Gabinetti boasted the following contents:

Fornitures, supports, wall tables       33
Tools 33
Glass items and chemical products 23
Measuring instruments 39
Mechanics of solids 59
Mechanics of fluids 72
Molecular actions 14
Acoustics 78
Optics 134
Heat 75
Magnetism 10
Electricity        191
Total 738

When, a short time later (in 1880), he returned to Florence to the Physics chair at the University, he continued to give lessons for many years at the Physics Cabinet of the Istituto Tecnico, contributing with his successors Adolfo Bartoli and Eugenio Bazzi to its further development. Thanks to them, the collection came to include more than 3000 instruments, machinery, models, and models of machinery.

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