City of Names: Evangelista Torricelli

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367 years ago today a scientist named Torricelli died of typhoid fever in Florence. He was only 39 years old. He was such a scientific genius that in the 367 years since his death he’s had loads of things named after him – you know, little things like Torricelli’s Law, the Torricellian vacuum, four Italian Torricelli submarines, an asteroid and a crater on the frickin’ moon.

So, you might ask, is this blog about one of those incredibly cool-sounding and exciting things? The answer is no, of course not – this whole series of posts is about ROADS.

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In the heart of Paris’ 17th arrondissement, there is a cluster of roads each named after a famous scientist or great thinker. And one of them is Evangelista Torricelli.

As far as I can uncover, Torricelli never visited Paris. He was born in Rome but was educated in a monastery in Faenza, studying philosophy and maths. He worked with the likes of Galileo and Cavalieri.

As you might know from my previous post about Sir Isaac Newton, I am not a scientist by trade or by nature. However, I do understand some basics and Torricelli is remembered by the map of Paris because he made some incredibly important discoveries.

He is primarily remembered for the invention of the mercury barometer. He was an expert in air and pressure and was the first man to create a sustained vacuum. In fact, this scientific achievement led to the unit of pressure in measuring vacuums being named after him – the torr.

Perhaps you have stumbled across this blog because you are a Torricelli fan (I am sure there are some out there) and maybe you are unable to visit asteroid 7437 or lunar crater Torricelli. Maybe the statues and memorials in Rome and Florence are not convenient destinations for you. Well then, perhaps it would be more reasonable to consider a pilgrimage up to the 17th arrondissement to celebrate your hero.

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Rue Torricelli was built between 1867 and 1889 and is 185 metres long. The area around it is a fairly well-to-do residential area, just a short walk from the Arc de Triomphe and Ternes metro station. When I first moved to Paris I lived right by Rue Torricelli and I remember it for being… well, quite unmemorable. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a lovely street and the rents there aren’t cheap but I’m sure that if Torricelli were alive today he would be much more interested in the submarines and asteroid.

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