From Wikipedia
A scientific Conversazione (1858). [1]

A conversazione is a "social gathering [predominantly] held by [a] learned or art society" [2] for conversation and discussion, especially about the arts, literature, medicine, and science. [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]

It would not be easy to devise a happier way [than the conversazione] of bringing novelties at once under practical criticism—of making the outliers of science acquainted with the centre, of enabling investigators to compare operations and discuss facts and speculations, and of giving occasion for renewal of intercourse and removal of misunderstandings. …
[The] tangible gain to science [from the coversazione is that] inventors and experimentalists … hear [directly] what contemporaries say of their schemes and experiments, and much can be said and done with advantage amid the free talk of a general gathering which could not be permitted in the formal meeting of a scientific society. (Nature, 5 May 1870. [10])


The writer Horace Walpole is credited with the first recorded English use of conversazione in a letter written (from Italy) on 11 November 1739 to Richard West (1716-1742) in which he writes, "After the play we were introduced to the assembly, which they [viz., the Italians] call the conversazione". [11] [12]

Historical usage in Britain

A scientific conversazione on microscopy held at Apothecaries' Hall London on 11 April 1855.

In Italy, the term generally refers to a gathering for conversation; and was first used in English to identify the sort of private social gathering more generally known today as an "At Home". [13]

In England, however, it soon came to be far more widely used to denote the gatherings of a far more intellectual character, and was applied in the more specific sense of a scientific, artistic, or literary assembly/ soirée, [14] generally held at night. [15] [16] [17]

A conversazione like everything else has undergone conspicuous development in these days.
Formerly the word was applicable only to a meeting of cognoscenti, who were themselves proficient in some art or science which might be the immediate subject of learned interest.
At the present time the materials for discussion are supplied by the proficients, and the general public are invited to provide the talk or the criticism.
Moreover a "conversation" of this kind is not limited to a specific subject, but may comprise topics incidental to any branch of science and art whatever. (New Zealand Herald, 17 September 1880.) [8]

In its report on the first conversazione ever conducted by the Lambeth Literary Institution (on 22 June 1836), The Gentleman's Magazine noted that,

the principal object [of the Lambeth Literary Institution's inaugural conversazione] has been—by the collection of articles of virtù, antiquity, science, or art, and by the reading of original papers, conversation, and music,— to unite its members, at stated periods, into one focus of neighbourly community; where all may be on a footing of social equality,—the aristocracy of mind, united with urbanity of manners, alone maintaining its ascendancy here; where the high attainments of the classical scholar,—the lofty imaginings of the poet,—the deep researches of the man of science,—and the sturdy intelligence of the skilful artizan [sic], may all be amalgamated under one roof; and the rough energies of manly intellect be thus softened and refined by the amenities of the social circle. [18]

Knowledge dissemination

According to Yeates (2018):

In Victorian England, the conversazione was one of the most important educational, cultural, and recreational means through which scientific knowledge was disseminated and explanations of technical innovation were delivered to the general public.
Conducted by individuals, institutions, or learned bodies, a (usually mixed amateur/expert, male/female) audience was enlightened by explanations, two-way interactions with participants, experiments, demonstrations, hands-on displays of equipment, and/or the exhibition of specimens (see Alberti, 2003; and Plunkett & Sullivan, 2012).
The conversazione’s lectures/explanations delivered knowledge by description, and its experiments, demonstrations, hands-on displays of equipment, and exhibition of specimens delivered knowledge by acquaintance (with the concomitant psychological ownership of the knowledge so-acquired). [19]

Other uses

University of Cambridge

  • The intellectual society at Cambridge University known as the Apostles was founded in 1820 as the Conversazione Society by George Tomlinson. [20]
  • The Cambridge University Natural History Society continues to call its annual public exhibition a Conversazione. [21]

The arts-oriented social media website takes its name from the English meaning. [22]

See also


  1. ^ Artist William McConnell, 1858 Wood-engraving.
  2. ^ Alberti (2003), p.208.
  3. ^ Conversazione on "Hypnotism" at the Royal Manchester Institution, The Medical Times, Vol.10, No.243, (18 May 1844), pp.137-139.
  4. ^ Transactions of the Pharmaceutical Society: Conversazione, Vol.8, No.8, The Pharmaceutical Journal, (1 February 1849), pp.367-369.
  5. ^ College of Dentists of England: Conversazione—January 10, The Dental Review, Vol.2, (March 1860), pp.133-134.
  6. ^ Obstetrical Society of London, Catalogue and Report of Obstetrical and Other Instruments Exhibited at the Conversazione of the Obstetrical Society of London, held, by permission, at the Royal College of Physicians, March 28th, 1866: with Numerous Illustrations, Longmans, Green, and Co., (London), 1867.
  7. ^ Scientific Conversazioni, Scientific Opinion, Vol.3, (20 April 1870), p.357.
  8. ^ a b Auckland Museum and Institute, New Zealand Herald, (Friday 17 September 1880), p.5.
  9. ^ The Conversazione of the Institute of Civil Engineers, The Engineer, Vol.83, (28 May 1897), p.550.
  10. ^ Sir Edward Sabine's Conversazione, Nature, vol.2, No.27, (5 May 1870), pp.8-9.
  11. ^ (Letter to Richard West, sent from Turin, 11 November 1739), in The Letters of Horace Walpole, … Volume I, Lea and Blanchard, (Philadelphia), 1842, pp.138-140; at p.140.
  12. ^ The term is derived from the Italian conversazione (“conversation”). The word has two plural forms in English: conversaziones and conversazioni.
  13. ^ For example, in her diary entry for Sunday, 10 November 1782, Fanny Burney, a.k.a. Madame d'Arbay noted that "The Honourable Miss Monckton [was] one of those who stand foremost in collecting all extraordinary or curious people to her London conversaziones, which, like those of Mrs. Vesey, mix the rank and the literature, and exclude all beside." ( Barrett, Charlotte (ed.), Diary and Letters of Madame d'Arbay, Volume I: 1778 to 1784 (New Edition), Bickers and Son, (London), 1876, p.460.
  14. ^ See, for example, The British and Foreign Institute's "Programme of the Lectures, Conversazione, Soirees, & Discussions, for the Season of 1845", reprinted in The Edinburgh Review, No.164, (December 1844), p.304 and, also, The Month: Science and Arts, Chambers's Journal of popular Literature, No.282, (Saturday, 28 May 1859), pp.350-352.
  15. ^ Bluhm, R.K., "A Note on the Origin of the Society's Conversaziones", Notes and Records of the Royal Society of London, Vol.30, No.1, (30 June 1958), pp.61-63.
  16. ^ According to Alberti (2003), p.217, the implicit demand for formal dress suggests that it tended to exclude the lower middle- and working-class and, thereby, tended to ensure that only well-off audiences attended such gatherings.
  17. ^ "Conversazione: Science and Art". Richard Doyle's Bird's-Eye Views of Society. 2015-04-10. Retrieved 2020-07-01.
  18. ^ Literary and Scientific Intelligence: Learned Societies: Conversazione of the Lambeth Literary Institution, The Gentleman's Magazine, Vol.6, New Series, (August 1836), pp.187-189, at p.189.
  19. ^ Yeates (2018), pp.42-43.
  20. ^ W. C. Lubenow, The Cambridge Apostles 1820-1914, Cambridge University Press, 1999.
  21. ^ " : Annual Conversazione: Cambridge's oldest celebration of citizen science!". Retrieved 2020-07-03.
  22. ^ "Conversazione". Dedicated to the Development of Critical Innovative Art Community.


External links