May 28, 2009

My favorite Croatian scientist

Have you heard of him?
My favorite Croatian scientist

Faust Vrančić was born in 1551 in Šibenik and he died in 1617 in Venice, he was buried on Prvić Island by his own request.
He was a Croatian bishop, humanist, philosopher, historian, diplomat, linguist, lexicographer, and inventor.
In older sources, he's also known as Fausto Veranzio and Faust Verantius.

When he was younger, Vrančić was interested in science. He attended schools in Padua (Padova) and Venice, where he focused on physics, engineering and mechanics. At the court of King Rudolf the II in Hradcany in Prague, Vrančić was Chancellor for Hungary and Transylvania often in contact with Johannes Kepler and Tycho Brahe. In 1598 he got the title of bishop of Csanad.
After his wife's death, Vrančić left for Hungary and later for Venice to join the brotherhood of Saint Paul (barnabites) in 1609, where he committed himself to the study of science.

Technical research
Vrančić's book on mechanics, Machinae Novae (Venice 1595), contained 40 large pictures depicting 56 different machines, devices, and technical concepts. The sensational book was soon translated into Italian, Spanish, French and German.

Vrančić had examined Leonardo da Vinci's rough sketches of a parachute, and set out to implement a parachute of his own. Twenty years later, he implemented his design and tested the parachute by jumping from a tower in Venice in 1617. The event was documented some 30 years after it happened in a book written by John Wilkins, the secretary of the Royal Society in London.

His areas of interest in engineering and mechanics were broad. Mills were his main point of research, where he created 18 different designs. He envisioned windmills with both vertical and horizontal axes, with different wing construction to improve their efficiency. The idea of a mill powered by tides incorporated accumulation pools filled with water by the high tide and emptied when the tide ebbed, simply using gravity; the concept has just recently been engineered and used.

By order of the Pope, he envisioned and made projects needed for regulating rivers, since Rome was often flooded by the Tiber River. He also tackled the problem of the wells and water supply of Venice, which is surrounded by sea. Devices to register the time using water, fire, or other methods were envisioned and materialized. His own sun clock was effective in reading the time, date, and month, but functioned only in the middle of the day. The construction method of building metal bridges and the mechanics of the forces in the area of statics were also part of his research. He drew proposals which predated the actual construction of modern suspension bridges and cable-stayed bridges by over two centuries. The last area was described when further developed in a separate book by mathematician Simon de Bruges (Simon Stevin) in 1586.



  1. What an interesting choice! People often forget about this very important and interesting person and scientist. Are you interested in parachutes and parachuting or do you have some other particular reason for choosing Faust Vrancic, who, I must admit, is one of my favorite Croatian scientists?

  2. Well, I have to admit that I didn't know how many inventions he made, so I was curious and I decided to search for something new...