Information for Researchers
Scope and Content of Collection
Collection Title: Ruggero Giuseppe Boscovich papers
Date (inclusive): 1711-1787
Collection Number: BANC MSS 72/238 cz
Boscovich, Ruggero Giuseppe, 1711-1787
Number of containers: 5 cartons, 2 volumes
Linear feet: 6.45
The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
Berkeley, California, 94720-6000
Phone: (510) 642-6481
Fax: (510) 642-7589
Abstract: The Ruggero Giuseppe Boscovich Papers, 1711-1787, consist of
correspondence and scientific papers relating to astronomy, mathematics, mechanics,
philosophy, theology, hydropgraphy, and optics. Also included are biographical materials,
notes on the work of other scientists and diary fragments.
Languages Represented: Collection materials are in Italian, Latin, English,
French, and Serbo-Croatian
Physical Location: Many of the Bancroft Library collections are stored offsite
and advance notice may be required for use. For current information on the location of these
materials, please consult the Library's online catalog.
Information for Researchers
Collection is open for research.
All requests to reproduce, publish, quote from or otherwise use collection materials must
be submitted in writing to the Head of Public Services, The Bancroft Library, University
of California, Berkeley, 94720-6000. Consent is given on behalf of The Bancroft Library as
the owner of the physical items and is not intended to include or imply permission from
the copyright owner. Such permission must be obtained from the copyright owner. See:
Restrictions also apply to digital representations of the original materials. Use of
digital files is restricted to research and educational purposes.
[Identification of item], Ruggero Giuseppe Boscovich Papers, BANC MSS 72/238 cz, The
Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Alternate Forms Available
Selected portions: 20 microfilm reels: negative (Rich. 619:1-20) and positive. Part 2,
Giuseppe Goretti Falmini correspondence, 1765-1786 : also available on microfilm.
The following terms have been used to index the description of this collection in the
library's online public access catalog.
Boscovich, Ruggero Giuseppe,
Priestley, Joseph, 1733-1804
Lalande, Joseph Jerome Le Francais de,
Frisi, Paolo, 1728-1784
Lagrange, J. L. (Joseph Louis), 1736-1813
Beccaria, Giambatista, 1716-1781.
The Ruggero Giuseppe Boscovich Papers were purchased by The Bancroft Library in 1962.
No additions are expected.
System of Arrangement
Arranged to the folder level.
Processed by the Bancroft Library staff.
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
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.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Ruggero Giuseppe Boscovich Papers, 1711-1787, consist of correspondence and scientific
papers relating to astronomy, mathematics, mechanics, philosophy, theology, hydropgraphy,
and optics. Also included are biographical materials, notes on the work of other scientists
and diary fragments.
The papers were arranged in the 1920s by Yugoslavian scholar Dr. Branimir Truhelka while
the collection was still in private hands. This arrangement, as well as the item numbers
designated by Truhelka, have been retained by The Bancroft Library.
The bulk of the collection consists of correspondence between Boscovich and his family and
colleagues, including many of 18th Century Italy's most eminent mathematicians and
scientists such as Giovanni Battista Beccaria, Paolo Frisi, Stefano Conti, Joseph Priestley,
Joseph-Louis Lagrange, Joseph Jerome LaLande, and Benedetto Stay.
Many handwritten manuscripts are included. These have been divided into ten subjects:
astronomy, philology, philosophy, natural philosophy, geodesy, hydrography, mathematics,
mechanics, optics, and poetry. Of note are a commentary on Benedetto Stay's Philosophiae
Recentioris and a paper on mechanics, "De viribus vivis," a discussion of the law of
With the exception of some biographical materials and commentaries, nearly the entire
collection has been microfilmed and is available at The Bancroft Library, the American
Philosophical Society, and the Croatian Academy of Sciences and Arts in Zagreb. Items not
microfilmed are indicated in the container listing.
For a more detailed description of the Boscovich Papers, refer to Roger Hahn's paper "The
Boscovich Archives at Berkeley," a copy of which can be found in this collection.