Home » History » Della Porta Invented a Method of Writing Secret Messages Inside Eggs. Ink Transferred from the Shell to the Boiled Egg Inside. The Message Could Only be Revealed When Cracked and Peeled?
Della Porta

Della Porta Invented a Method of Writing Secret Messages Inside Eggs. Ink Transferred from the Shell to the Boiled Egg Inside. The Message Could Only be Revealed When Cracked and Peeled?

Giambattista Della Porta, also known as Giovanni Battista Della Porta, was a reformation-era Italian scholar, polymath, and playwright who lived in Naples during the Renaissance era, Scientific Revolution, and Reformation. But did you know how Porta helped make secret messages used in espionage? 

Della Porta invented a method for secretly writing messages inside eggs. The ink from the shell was transferred to the boiled egg inside. Only by cracking and peeling could the message be revealed.

The Early Life of Della Porta

Giambattista Della Porta was born in the Kingdom of Naples in Vico Equense, near Naples. He was the third of four sons of Nardo Antonio Della Porta and came from a noble family. His mother was a Spadafora, the sister of the scholar Adriano Guglielmo Spadafora, who became curator of the archives of Naples in 1536 and mentored the young Giambattista.

However, Giambattista was self-taught, and in addition to being gifted in the sciences and mathematics, he and his brothers were also passionate about the arts, particularly music. His education included classical letters, philosophy, natural sciences, music, dance, horseback riding, and gymnastics. But he never went to university, the University of Naples was not officially founded until 1581, and he avoided academic circles. The Neapolitan family home, on the other hand, was frequented by philosophers, mathematicians, poets, and musicians, forming a true academy. (Source: Sci-Hi Blog

The Secret Egg Messages

His seminal work on cryptology, de furtivis literarum notis  or On the Hidden Meaning of Letters, published in 1563, cemented his fame. He described the first digraphic substitution cipher in it. Della Porta also devised a method for writing secret messages on the inside of eggs. Some of his friends were imprisoned during the Spanish Inquisition. Except for eggs, everything was checked at the prison’s entrance.

Della Porta used a mixture of plant pigments and alum to write messages on the eggshell. The ink penetrated the semi-porous eggshell. When the eggshell was dry, he boiled it in hot water to remove the ink from the outside of the egg. When the recipient in prison peeled off the shell, the message on the egg white was revealed once more. In 1566, he published Arte del ricordare, a small work on the art of memorizing information, in which he provided mnemonic procedures to improve memory. (Source: Sci-Hi Blog

The Camera and The Telescope

He improved the camera obscura, an early precursor to the camera, around 1570. Della Porta described this device as having a convex lens in a later edition of his Natural Magic. Even though he was not the inventor, the popularity of this work helped spread awareness of it. He compared the shape of the human eye to the lens in his camera obscura and demonstrated how light could bring images into the eye in a simple way.

Della Porta also claimed to have invented the first telescope, but he died while working on the treatise that would support his claim. His efforts were also overshadowed by Galileo Galilei’s improvement of the telescope in 1609, following Lippershey’s introduction in the Netherlands in 1608.[6] In 1610, he joined the Accademia dei Lincei, the Lincean Academy, one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious scientific institutions. In 1611, Galileo Galilei joined the Academy and quickly became its intellectual center. (Source: Sci-Hi Blog

Image from Lavarajulavarde

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