Henrique Leitão

Research that's keeping me busy:

Welcome to my web site.

I am a historian of science working at the Centro Interuniversitário de História das Ciências e da Tecnologia, at the University of Lisbon (CIUHCT-UL), and I teach at the Master Program in the History and Philosophy of Science.

I am Chair of the Department for the History and Philosophy of Science, at the Faculty of Sciences, University of Lisbon.

Here you'll find information on my research, my papers, books and other topics. I have a number of ongoing projects with students and collaborators and will post some information here. For more materials (but less explanation) go to my Academia.edu page.

Project RUTTER is now my most absorbing research commitment. This is a five-year Project funded by the European Research Council (ERC), to study early modern sailing directions (rutters) and ship's logbooks: RUTTER: Making the Earth Global (ERC AdG 833438). Here is the RUTTER-Site. The research team (Post-Docs, PhD students, staff) is superb. We have also a group of Advisors and some Associate Members. There is a blog, Reading Rutters, and a Twitter account. Within the framework of the Project, there is also the Lisbon Arabic Science and Philosophy Reading Group. In addition to research activities, we have a series of Seminars, a series of "Scholar meets RUTTER" events, Palaeography sessions, Arabic reading sessions, an internship program and many other activities. We are working on books and research papers, of course, but we also offer Technical Notes and Book Reviews to all interested. Be sure to follow our developments.


July 2021

The Encontro Nacional SPM2021 is unmissable. I am honoured to have been invited as Plenary Speaker.

June 2021. One more RUTTER Technical Note:

TN 8. Juan Acevedo & Inês Bénard, The Stars of Indian Ocean Arab Navigation.

15 June 2021

I will be presenting a lecture ("Escaping the Epistemic Trap: Problemata Literature and Astrological Prognostication"), at the Internationales Kolleg für Geisteswissenschaftliche Forschung, Friedrich-Alexander Universität, Erlangen-Nürnberg.

May 2021. Three more RUTTER Technical Notes:

TN 7. Luana Giurgevich. Roteiros Manuscritos Portugueses dos séculos XV e XVI (Manuscritos).

TN 6. Carmo Lacerda e José María Moreno Madrid, A remarkable collection of rutters, 16th-18th century: Derroteros que hacia el Piloto Mayor para que llevasen los jefes de las embarcaciones que iban a Indias.

TN 5. José María Moreno Madrid. A seventeenth-century collection of rutters: Derroteros de los mares de Marruecos, Canarias, América y Filipinas, y otros documentos, compiled by Ignacio Muñoz.

5-7 May: European Humanities Conference.

April 2021

RUTTER Project will be presenting three panels at the Conference of the Renaissance Society of America.

March 2021

My translation (and study) of Galileo's Sidereus nuncius (1610) is now freely available for download at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation site.

November 2020 - New Book

This is the cover of my new book (together with José María Moreno Madrid): Atravessando a Porta do Pacífico. Roteiros e Relatos da Travessia do Estreito de Magalhães, 1520-1620. It is a collection of rutters and other technical documents on the crossing of the Strait of Magellan during the first century of expeditions, 1520 to 1620.

I am still continuing the edition of Pedro Nunes's Works (Obras de Pedro Nunes), by the Lisbon Academy of Sciences and the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The first six volumes are published: that is, ALL printed works by Pedro Nunes are now available in a modern, annotated edition. They can be bought at the Bookshop of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation. The volume on Nunes' manuscripts (vol. VII) is nearly completed; it should be ready in a couple of months. I am already working hard on vol. VIII (biographical materials and documents). See here for updated information.

In the past years I got more and more interested in problems in the history of cartography. I have been doing this work with Joaquim Gaspar. A few years ago we investigated the origins of the Mercator Projection -- and got some remarkable results; more recently we looked into the first charts with visual depictions of magnetic information, namely isogonic lines. Here are some of our papers: Joaquim Alves Gaspar and Henrique Leitão, "Squaring the Circle: How Mercator constructed his Projection in 1569", Imago Mundi, 66 (2014) 1-24; Henrique Leitão and Joaquim Alves Gaspar, "Globes, rhumb tables and the pre-history of the Mercator projection", Imago Mundi, 66 (2014) 180-195; Joaquim Alves Gaspar and Henrique Leitão, "How Mercator Did it in 1569: From Tables of Rhumbs to a Cartographic Projection", Newsletter of the European Mathematical Society, nº99 (March 2016) 44-49; Joaquim Alves Gaspar and Henrique Leitão,«What is a nautical chart, really? Uncovering the geometry of early modern nautical charts», Journal of Cultural Heritage, 29 (2018) 130-136; Joaquim Alves Gaspar and Henrique Leitão, «Luis Teixeira, c.1585: The earliest known chart with Isogonic Lines», Imago Mundi, 70 (2018) 221-228; Joaquim Alves Gaspar and Henrique Leitão, «Early Modern Nautical Charts and Maps: Working through different cartographic paradigms», Journal of Early Modern History, 23 (2019) 1-28. More papers are submitted and will appear later this year.

October, 28, 2020

Newspaper Público asked me to write a small piece on Pedro Nunes's book of algebra: «"Quem sabe por algebra sabe scientificamente": O Libro de algebra (1567) de Pedro Nunes», Público, 28 Oct. 2020, p. 29.

October, 2020: The (famous) RUTTER Technical Notes:

TN 4: Nuno Vila-Santa, The Portuguese India Run (16th-18th centuries): A Bibliography.

TN 3: David Solomoni, Jesuits on Board: A Reasoned Bibliography on the Early Modern Jesuit Trans-Oceanic Sailing Experiences. (Here's a nice note about David's technical note at The Portal to Jesuit Studies, Boston College.)

TN 2 : Inês Bénard & Juan Acevedo, Indian Ocean Arab Navigation Studies Towards a Global Perspective: Annotated Bibliography and Research Roadmap.

TN 1 : Luana Giurgevich, Bibliotheca roteirística: Edições impressas em Portugal dos séculos XVII e XVIII.

August, 2020

I was interviewed by Helena Avelar and Luís Ribeiro, in their excellent ad Astra Podcast - Academic Conversations on the History of Astrology. Here is my interview: History of Science and Astrology(41'40''). The Podcast has sessions with Charles Burnett, Dorian Greenbaum, Martin Gansten, Günther Oestmann, Petra Schmidl, Jean-Patrice Boudet, among other scholars.

July, 22, 2020.

According to many, José Maria Pimentel's Podcast 45 Graus is the most interesting Portuguese podcast for cultural and academic matters. José Maria recently honoured me with an invitation for an interview. Here is the result: Os mitos surpreendentes da História da Ciência (1h44').

April-May, 2020. Some news of the RUTTER Project during the Co-Vid 19 Pandemic:

RUTTER Book Reviews: Follow the most recent literature related to our topic.

Reading Rutters: This is the blog of the RUTTER Project.

The RUTTER Project is on Twitter: @ErcRutter. You can now follow our work in detail.

March, 2020. Some of my recent papers:

Henrique Leitão, «The Making of a Hydraulics Expert: Estevão Dias Cabral (1734–1811)». In: Ana Duarte Rodrigues, Carmen Toribio Marín (eds), The History of Water Management in the Iberian Peninsula. Between the 16th and 19th centuries (Cham: Birkhäuser, 2020), pp. 369-384. Henrique Leitão e José Madruga Carvalho, «1582: O Calendário Gregoriano: globalizar a marcação do tempo», in: Carlos Fiolhais, José Eduardo Franco, José Pedro Paiva (dir.), História Global de Portugal (Lisboa: Círculo de Leitores, 2020), pp. 409-414. Henrique Leitão, «Inquisition and Science: Where do we stand now?», Annals of Science, 77 (2020) 127-133. Bernardo Mota e Henrique Leitão, «Francisco de Melo: entre Renascimento Matemático e Humanismo», in: Cristina Pimentel, Sebastião Tavares de Pinho, Maria Luísa Resende, Madalena Brito, Margarida Miranda (eds.), O Humanismo Português e Europeu. No 5º centenário do Cicero Lusitanus, Jerónimo Osório (1515-1580) (Coimbra: Imprensa da Universidade de Coimbra, 2020), pp. 57-67.

January, 2020

Here's an interview José Madruga and I gave about our forthcoming book on Calendars in Portugal in the 16th century. Many thanks to Fernando Correia de Oliveira and his excellent blog Estação Chronographica.

November, 2019

Newspaper Expresso invited me to write a brief Preface to their republication of Stefan Zweig's Magellan. They wanted specifically an historian of science to write such a text.

October 2019

The Bibliotheksmagazin of the Staatsbibliothek Berlin published an article about the Lisbon/Berlin collaboration to study Thurneyser's manuscript: Bernard Herold, Thomas Horst, Henrique Leitão, Gabriele Kaiser, «Zu Lissabon Angefangen Anno Christi 1555. Die Handschrift Ms. Germ. Fol. 97 ist online zugänglich», Bibliotheksmagazin 3/19 (2019) 60-65. See here for the whole issue of the magazine.

1 September, 2019

Project RUTTER officially started today. RUTTER: Making the Earth Global (ERC AdG 833438) is a new, ambitious, five-year Project to study early modern sailing directions (rutters) and ship's logbooks. I plan to make public some results along the way. This is the Web page of the RUTTER Project. And here is a notice and interview I gave to my Faculty's news service.

September, 2018. Frontiers in the History of Science.

The book will be available on Nov. 9.

(For my other books, see here).

I am working with José Madruga Carvalho on the history of the Gregorian Reform of the Calendar in Portugal. The 1582 reform promoted by Pope Gregory XIII is a fascinating but sometimes very technical topic. There is an interesting body of documents on the correspondence between Portuguese astronomers and Roman authorities in the 16th century, but this was never studied in detail. A couple of years ago I traced unknown documents and we are now putting everything together and writing a book that we wish will become a reference work for the Portuguese reader. Here's an interview José Madruga and I gave about our forthcoming book, and here is a very short note we wrote: Henrique Leitão e José Madruga Carvalho, «1582: O Calendário Gregoriano: globalizar a marcação do tempo», in: Carlos Fiolhais, José Eduardo Franco, José Pedro Paiva (dir.), História Global de Portugal (Lisboa: Círculo de Leitores, 2020), pp. 409-414.

Ars nautica (1570), by Fernando Oliveira, is an extended compilation of information on nautical matters; it has been called an "encyclopaedia of sea and navigation" and this designation is not incorrect. Ars nautica is the last of the great Portuguese nautical texts of the sixteenth century still waiting for a modern edition. It was recently translated to Portuguese. I am presently reviewing this (excellent) translation looking at the technical aspects, and I will also prepare some notes.

Luana Giurgevich and I have been engaged for some years on a wide research of old libraries in Portugal. Our initial objective was to study the circulation of scientific books in Portugal but we soon realized that a broader approach was needed. We ended up examining in detail the contents of hundreds of old libraries; the result was our 900-page book: Clavis Bibliothecarum: Catálogos e Inventários de Livrarias de Instituições Religiosas em Portugal até 1834 - an exhaustive list of nearly 1.000 catalogues of ca. 400 ancient libraries plus hundreds of related documents. (This book was awarded a "Menção Honrosa" of the Prize "Lusitania - História", Academia Portuguesa da História, 2016). Here's a review to the book, by Mário Santiago de Carvalho, in Revista Filosófica de Coimbra, 25 (2016) 462-464. The National Library [Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal] set up a Companion Site to the Book, with hundreds of digitised library catalogues. We are now researching the educational activities around these libraries and these ecclesiastical institutions.

I am working with Bernardo Mota on the edition of Francisco de Melo's mathematical works: Francisco de Melo: Obras Matemáticas. Melo (ca. 1490-1536) was a fine mathematician, perhaps the best Portuguese mathematician in the generation before Pedro Nunes. Volume I [Latin text and translation] is already published and got the prestigious prize for academic translation. Samuel Gessner published an extended Review of our book in Historia Mathematica, 45 (2018) 182-185. We are now working on volume II [Commentary and studies], which we plan to publish in 2019. See here for more information.

New series: Frontiers in the History of Science, Birkhäuser, Basel. Editor: Vincenzo de Risi. I am one of the Associate editors.Frontiers in the History of Science is designed for publications of up-to-date research results encompassing all areas of history of science, primarily with a focus on the history of mathematics, physics, and their applications. Graduates and post-graduates as well as scientists will benefit from the selected and thoroughly peer-reviewed publications at the research frontiers of history of sciences and at interdisciplinary “frontiers”: history of science crossing into neighboring fields such as history of epistemology, history of art, or history of culture.