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Fortunato de Félice - Early life & Studies (1723-54)

Fortunato de Félice was born in the Kingdom of Naples on the 24th August 1723, to Gennaro de Félice (1701-85)  and Caterina Rossetti.

Coming from a large noble family, he was guaranteed the best education of the day, thus was sent at an early age to study with the Jesuits in a Roman school. Here his love of philosophical knowledge started, natural in the form of physics and supernatural in the form of religion and reason. It was here that we can see two major encounters that would affect the rest of his life - the discovery of a prohibited Protestant bible and a brief meeting with the young Countess Panzutti.

A brilliant student, from Rome he moved to Brescia to study philosophy for 3 years, and then returned to Rome in 1743 aged 20. Deciding to move further on in the world of academia he became a professor of Philosophy, establishing himself as a supporter of the theories of Leibnitz and Newton. He soon moved back to his hometown of Naples to occupy the university's Chair of experimental Physics and Mathematics.

There, with a friend Galliani, he wrote his first important paper, "De Utili aërometricae cum caeteris facultatibus naturalibus nexu" in 1753. The following year he translated Arbuthnot's "Essai des effets de l'air sur le corps humain", which was greatly received in the academic community, especially by the scientist Albrecht von Haller (1708-77). Following the success of this translation he produced another 6, this time even incorporating his own corrections and updates. These were received even more greatly, this time by the Marquis Poleni and Jean Bianchi.

To honour his work, the Secretary of State Marquis Branconi offered him a bishopric, but de Félice refused. His independent character and scientific background conflicted with the Roman (Catholic) Church far too much. Nevertheless he later accepted, becoming known as "Pater Fortunatus de Félice" -  the cord from his cassock still exists.

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