Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Born 10 Dec., 1631, at Brescia in Italy ; died in the same place, 22 Feb., 1687. Mathematician and naturalist, he was also the scientific founder of aeronautics. He belonged to the ancient family of the Counts of Lana-Terzi, which had come to Brescia as early as the fourteenth century from the neighbourhood of Bergamo. Trained by able teachers in his native city, he entered the novitiate of the Society of Jesus in Rome on 11 Nov., 1647, and made his philosophical and theological studies in the Roman College of the Society. He later taught the humanities for a short time at Terni, where the town council through gratitude to him and his family granted him the freedom of the city. After this he was mainly engaged as professor of physical science and mathematics, principally at Ferrara, until delicate health necessitated his return to his native Brescia. He there performed the duties of confessor, and was engaged at the same time on the publication of his great work on physical science, "Magisterium naturæ et artis". Eliminating everything that was uncertain, this work was to treat in nine volumes the entire field of the natural sciences on strictly geometrical principles and on the basis of carefully made experiments. Unfortunately Lana himself could publish but two of these volumes (1684, 1686), but a third appeared at Parma after his death. The work found favourable notice in the learned publications of the time, though Lana's principal achievement lay in another direction.

In 1670 he had published, as an advertisement for his chief work, a small volume entitled "Prodromo overo saggio di alcune inventioni". In this book Lana describes a series of useful discoveries---for example, methods of cipher-writing and of writing for the blind; an apparatus for speaking at a long distance; also telescopes, microscopes, a sowing machine, etc. Two chapters treat of aeronautics---chapter v, "How to construct birds which will fly through the air", and chapter vi, "Demonstration of the feasibility of constructing a ship with rudder and sails, which will sail through the air". Here Lana distinguishes explicitly between the "heavier than air" and the "lighter than air". Although the various ingenious methods of constructing birds given in chapter v are very interesting, chapter vi is much more important. In this he devises a strictly scientific plan for the making of an airship: he begins by discussing the precedent conditions, then develops the plan, and finally solves the objections which might be advanced. According to his plan four large globes are to be made of very thin sheet metal of such diameter that the weight of the air contained therein will be greater than that of the sheet metal of which the globes are made. When the air is exhausted from the globes by means of a simple process explained by Lana, they will float through the air, and moreover carry a car for passengers. In the second volume of his great work (pp. 291-4), Lana again explains his plan, in which he says he has made some improvements. He also mentions that perhaps wood or glass might be substituted for the envelope of the globes. Lana's plan aroused much interest and discussion. Though the Italian Borelli considered it impracticable, German savants, such as Leibniz and Professors Sturm and Lohmeier, spoke well of it. At all events, Lana's influence on his successors was suggestive and encouraging; although his plan was never carried into execution, the principles so clearly set forth by him form the basis of modern aeronautics, and his importance is becoming ever more clearly recognized in our times. In addition to the works already mentioned, Lana also wrote a drama, "La Rappresantazione di San Valentino", and an ascetical treatise, "La beltà svelata".

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 6:1-9
1 Children, be obedient to your parents in the Lord -- that is what ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 145:10-11, 12-13, 13-14
10 All your creatures shall thank you, Yahweh, and your faithful shall ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:22-30
22 Through towns and villages he went teaching, making his way to ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 26th, 2016 Image

St. Bean
October 26: On December 16, there is named in the Roman ... Read More