a collection of notes on areas of personal interest
For those of you searching the Internet for more information about the Cassini and Maraldi families, you will by now have found that there is not a great deal to be discovered. Much of it is copied from the same sources, and I have to admit that my site owes some of its details to them, particularly this scientific site with regard to César François Cassini. Documentation is also a problem and research in the British Library and similar sources has turned up little not found earlier, with the exception of a small number of letters relating to Mme de Cassini, the Marquise de Cassini and, at the time of her writing them, the widow of Dominique-Joseph Cassini, younger brother of Cassini IV. I am sure a more professional approach would uncover more.
However, much of my site owes its information and details to work I have carried out with members of the Cassini family, scientists and astronomers in England, France, Italy and Canada, and to whom I am indebted. I am also grateful to those who helped me on my visit to Perinaldo, showed me around the Maraldi house and allowed me to see the parish records at the Chiesa Parrocchiale di San Nicolò da Bari.
I am in the process of putting together a family tree showing the details and interrelationships of the Cassini and Maraldi families. The tree is found on the preceding page and will be updated when and as I find more information.
The house in which Giovanni Domenico Cassini was most probably born is situated on the main street of Perinaldo, and belongs to the Maraldi family. The building is difficult to see from the street due to the narrow character which are so typical of these hill towns but, as this photograph illustrates, it is a substantial house when viewed from its garden side, the windows of the house facing south down the Verbone valley towards the Mediterranean.
The building’s importance is such that Napoleon, together with his General Massena, when camping at nearby Dolceaqua on his military campaigns, felt the need to sleep a night there in 1797, in his recognition of the value to the French State of the man who took the French name of Jean Dominique Cassini.
When I began this study I thought that the Cassinis were the more important scientific family, particularly from an astronomical point of view. However, in Perinaldo there is no doubt that the Maraldi family is considered to be at least, if not more important than the Cassinis, though it was Giacomo Cassini, who died in 1672, and was really responsible for the Cassini and Maraldi dynasty of scientists.
Giovanni, or Gian Domenico Cassini was, in fact, brought up by his uncle, Antonio Maria Crovese, a brother of his mother, Julia Crovesi. I have not yet been able to find out specifically why this was but I understand it was not uncommon in those days. Antonio was also the tutor of Gian Domenico in, presumably, his youth, and this close contact is likely to be the reason the Cassini and Maraldi families followed similar scientific paths.
Regrettably, I have found it difficult identifying many of the individuals within the Maraldi family. The easy ones are those who carried out work with the Cassinis, but it is evident that the siblings are not easy to track down. Presumably some time spent with the archives of San Nicolò in Perinaldo would round out the family better. I have had sight of rough family trees but have not been able to make a proper study of them.
This partial family tree was given to me by one of the specialists on the Cassini family. I am in the process of analysing and reconciling it with the chart I am assembling on the combined families.
Incidentally, the name of the family is given as Cassini though there is a history of using different forms perhaps relating, as I have been told, to the origins of the word ‘Cassini’ which is said to be derived from the word for a small house, ‘casa’, implying a rustic structure.
It is understood from notes made by Jean Dominique Cassini – Cassini IV – that papers, written in the hand of Giovanni Dominique Cassini, state that the Cassini family originated in Sienna.
Note below that Gian. Domenico’s father’s family name is given as ‘Cassino’. I understand from a member of one of these two families that, in addition to Cassino, the Cassini family is also related to Cassio, Cassius and Cassin.
In 1625 the Parochial Archives of San Nicolò in Perinaldo, recorded Giovanni Domenico’s birth, two days after the event, as:
Alli 10 di d.o Gio. Dominico figlio di Giac. Cassino e di Tullia sua mogile è stato battezato da me sud.o Ber.do curato, tenendolo m. Ant.o Maria Crovese e Battista Cassini q. Antonio, natto dui giorni inanti.
which can be roughly translated as:
‘On the tenth day of this month of June Giovanni Dominico, son of Giacomo Cassino and of Tullia, his wife, has been baptised by me, the Curate Bernardo, with godparents Antionio Maria Crovese and Battista Cassini, born two days ago.’
Finally, I have decided to name the different Cassinis and Maraldis in accordance with their country of birth. I realise that this is most problematic with the first Cassini, Giovanni Domenico Cassini – or Jean Dominique Cassini in France – but, as his origin is fiercely recognised in Italy, I believe it reasonable.