“After her plea for the simple explanations she comes to the question whether the philosophical systems, which are able to derive all phenomena from very few basic principles, do not satisfy this criterion of simplicity in a special way. What, asks Bassi, could be more beautiful and simpler than the two Cartesian basic principles of matter and motion? She then, starting from these principles, develops step by step Descartes’ trains of thought up to his theory of vortices. Her presentation becomes increasingly ironic and shows the reader the whole absurdity of the attempt to explain the world with a philosophical system. But if, according to Bassi’s didactic application, even such a great mind as Descartes gave in to the temptation to exceed the limits of his knowledge, how much more are not all others endangered and in their quest for knowledge need the admonition to moderation and modesty.” (Ceranski 1996, p. 77, Translation Shari Wölker)
– Ceranski, Beate (1996). “Und sie fürchtet sich vor niemandem”. Die Physikerin Laura Bassi (1711-1778). Frankfurt am Main: Campus Verlag.
Laura Maria Caterina Bassi Veratti was an important Italian philosopher, physicist and mathematician in the 18th century. She received a doctorate in the natural sciences and philosophy. In 1732, at the age of 21, she became member in the Academy of Sciences of the Institute of Bologna and begins her teaching. Eventually she became university professor and was an important popularizer of Newtonian mechanics in Italy. Her graduate work covered a wide range of subjects including chemistry, physics, hydraulics, mathematics, mechanics, and techniques. It has been reported that she has defended at least 31 dissertations at the university. She held the chair of Experimental Physics in 1776.
Interest aroused? More information about Bassi and many other female philosophers and scientists can be found in our Directory. It gives an overview of women philosophers and scientists from approx. 2300 BCE to the 21st century. Currently, there are more than 280 names of women philosophers listed and the entries will be periodically updated with biographical information and sources for further research.
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