Porta, Johnbaptista

, a Neapolitan gentleman, who made himself famous by his application to letters and to science, particularly mathematics, medicine, and natural history, was born in 1445, and becoming eminent for his knowledge, held a kind of literary assembly at his house, in which, according to the notions of those times, they treated occasionally on the secrets of magic. The court of Rome on this account forbad these meetings; but his house was always the resort of literary men, foreign as well as Neapolitan. He not only established private schools for particular sciences, but to the utmost of his power promoted public academies. He had no small share in establishing the academy at Gli Ozioni, at Naples; and that | in his own house, called de Secret!, was accessible only to such as had made some new discoveries in nature. He composed dramas, both tragic and comic, which had some success at the time, but are not now extant. He died in 1515. The chief of his works now extant are, 1. “De Magia naturali,Amsterdam, 1664, 12mo; a work in which he teaches how to produce wonderful effects by natural causes but in which are some extravagances. 2. “De Physiognomia,” printed at Leyden in quarto, 1645. He judges of the physiognomy of men chiefly by comparing them to different animals and with his other fancies mixes those of judicial astrology. 3. “De occultis literarumnotis” in which he treats of the modes of writing in cypher which he does with great copiousness and diligence. 4. “Phytognomica,” a pretended method of knowing the inward virtues of things by inspection, Naples, 1583, folio. 5. “De Distillationibus,Rome, quarto. To him is attributed the invention of the Camera Obscura, which was perfected by s’Gravesande. He is said to have formed the plan of an Encyclopaedia. 1

1 Bullart’s Academie des Sciences. Martin’s Biog. Philos, —Tiraboschi. Saxii Ononaast.