Museo Galileo
Virtual Museum
Gasparo Berti
ca. 1600-1643

Probably a native of Mantua, Berti spent most of his life in Rome. He was extremely active in the scientific circles of the papal city, networking and collaborating with Luca Holstein, Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680), and Raffaello Magiotti (1597-1656). In 1643, at the death of Benedetto Castelli (1577/8-1643), he was appointed his successor to the chair of mathematics at the Sapienza (the University of Rome), but he died the same year. Berti's research is of particular importance for its close ties with the work of Evangelista Torricelli (1608-1647) on atmospheric pressure. Between 1640 and 1643, Berti developed several experimental instruments designed to empirically test the distance to which water will rise in a siphon, which had been fixed by Galileo (1564-1642) at 18 braccia (c. 11 meters). In a March 1648 letter to Marin Mersenne (1588-1648), Raffaello Magiotti describes a large "lead siphon" c. 22 braccia long that Berti had set up in the courtyard of his house. Magiotti claims that Berti, using the results of his experiments, managed to disprove Galileo's findings. Reports by Athanasius Kircher and Gaspar Schott (1608-1666) also describe Berti's experiments aimed at demonstrating the presence of the vacuum in a barometric tube.