Ivano Dal Prete

Ivano Dal Prete's picture
Lecturer in History, Director of Undergraduate Studies 2023-2024
HQ Room 253
320 York St, New Haven, CT 06511
Research Areas: 
Early history of the Earth sciences (1200-1800); Renaissance scientific literature in the vernacular; generation in the long eighteenth century; material and visual culture of astronomy and natural history; science, religion and society



My research in the history of medieval and early modern science straddles a variety of different approaches and a wide temporal and thematic breadth. My first monograph, Scienza e Società nel Settecento Veneto (“Science and Society in the Republic of Venice in the Eighteenth Century”, 2008; in Italian), sheds light on the political uses of scientific theories and practices arguing that Italian ruling elites increasingly engaged with early modern science not in pursuit of Enlightenment ideals (as previously held), but to control its narrative and place it in the service of conservative social and political agendas.

The exploration of mainly non-institutional contexts highlighted numerous problems with conventional accounts of the rise of modern scientific rationalism, and in particular with the alleged eighteenth-century discovery of the depth of geological and human time. My second monograph: On the Edge of Eternity. The Antiquity of the Earth in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Oxford University Press, 2022), outlines a history of deep time and of the earth sciences that is radically different from the narrative commonly accepted for more than two centuries.

Against the simplistic account of a pre-1700 Europe that uniformly accepted the young age of the Earth, On the Edge of Eternity reveals the complex and sophisticate pluralism of medieval and early modern Earth history, in which a literal interpretation of Genesis was only one of many possible – and freely discussed – alternatives. By focusing on largely ignored vernacular sources, I show that non-biblical accounts of the history of the Earth had a considerable societal diffusion and were often appropriated by artisans and other social actors outside the learned elites. What became the mainstream narrative was elaborated during the 1700s as a tool of Enlightenment cultural and political propaganda, rapidly becoming the accepted historiographical common sense.

My other research interests include Renaissance cosmology, early telescopic astronomy, and scientific instruments trade. More recently, I have been especially intrigued by medieval and early modern definitions of the borders of humanness, theories of human generation, and their implications for the social control of sexuality, abortion, and infanticide.



On the Edge of Eternity. The Antiquity of the Earth in Medieval and Early Modern EuropeOxford University Press, 2022 (2023 ACHA Marraro Prize for best book in Italian History):

Scienza e societa nel Settecento veneto (“Science and Society in 18th-century Republic of Venice”; in Italian), Milano, FrancoAngeli, 2008.

Antonio Vallisneri. Miglioramenti e correzioni, d/alcune esperienze, ed osservazioni del signor Redi (ed., introduction and notes), Florence, Olschki, 2005 (in Italian).

Selected articles and book chapters:

“When the Ocean Towered above the Earth: Dante Alighieri’s Questio in Context”, in Dante and the Sciences of the Human (Palgrave 2023, forthcoming).

“Climate and Meteorology”. In Jalobeanu, Dana, Wolfe, Charles T. (Eds.) Springer Encyclopedia of Early Modern Philosophy and the Sciences (2019).

“The Ruins of the Earth. Learned Meteorology and Artisan Expertise in Fifteenth- century Italian Landscapes”, Nuncius 33 (2018), 415-441.

“‘Ingenuous Investigators”: Antonio Vallisneri’s Regional Network and the Making of Natural Knowledge in Eighteenth-century Italy”, in Paula Findlen (ed.), Empires of Knowledge: Scientific Networks in the Early Modern World (Routledge, 2018), 181-204.

“Vernacular Meteorology and the Antiquity of the Earth in Medieval and Renaissance Italy”, Vernacular Aristotelianism in Italy from the Fourteenth to the Seventeenth Century, ed. by Luca Bianchi, Simon Gilson, and Jill Kraye (London: Warburg Institute, 2017), 139-160.

“Cultures and Politics of Preformationism in Eighteenth-century Italy”, The Secrets of Generation: Reproduction in the Long Eighteenth Century, ed. by Ray Stephenson, Darren Wagner (Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 2015), pp. 59-78.

“‘Being the World Eternal’. The Age of the Earth in Renaissance Italy”, Isis, vol. 105, n.2 (June 2014), pp. 292-317.

“Brokering Instruments in Napoleon’s Europe. The Italian Journeys of Franz Xavier von Zach (1807- 1814)”,  Annals of  Science, vol. 71, n.1 (2014), pp. 82-101.


HIST 236/HSHM 226 – The Global Scientific Revolution

HSHM 417 – Before the Anthropocene: Global Environment in the Pre-industrial World

HIST 260J/HSHM 468 – Sex, Life and Generation. From Antiquity to Modern Times

HIST 179J/HSHM 415 – Historical Perspectives on Science and Religion


Ph.D. in “History of the European Society”, University of Verona (Italy), 2005

Laurea (B.A.) summa cum laude in Early Modern History, University of Verona, 1999