Antonio Vallisneri

Antonio Vallisneri

Italian naturalist
Date of Birth: 03.05.1661
Country: Italy

Biography of Antonio Vallisneri

Antonio Vallisneri was an Italian scientist and naturalist who made significant contributions to various fields of science including biology, botany, veterinary medicine, hydrology, and geology. He was born in a small village near Lucca and received his medical education under the guidance of Marcello Malpighi, the founder of microscopic anatomy, at the Medical School in Reggio Emilia. He completed his medical degree in 1685.

During his studies, Vallisneri initially focused on Aristotle's philosophy, but he became fascinated with the philosophy of empiricism under the influence of Malpighi and Francesco Redi. He continued his education in Bologna, Venice, Padua, and Parma. In 1700, he was appointed as an extraordinary professor of practical medicine, and in 1709, he became a professor of theoretical medicine at the University of Padua.

Vallisneri was known more as a practical researcher than a theoretical scientist. He supported Leibniz in rejecting Aristotle's theories in favor of Galileo Galilei's approach, which was based on the principles of experimental science. Vallisneri believed that scientific knowledge is acquired through reasoning supported by empirical evidence. Throughout his life, he faced fierce debates and controversies surrounding his discoveries. Although Vallisneri provided experimental evidence to support his arguments, many of his contemporaries were reluctant to abandon medieval scientific theories.

Vallisneri had a wide range of interests in the natural sciences and amassed numerous collections of animals, minerals, and other natural objects throughout his life. From 1696 to 1700, he published his work "Dialoghi sopra la curiosa Origine di molti Insetti" (Curious dialogues on the origin of many insects) in "La Galleria di Minerva." In this work, he described his early experiments on insect reproduction. The book, accompanied by commentaries from Redi and Malpighi, contributed to the refutation of the theory of spontaneous generation. Written in the form of a dialogue between Malpighi and Pliny the Elder, the text followed the popular style of the time.

Starting from 1701, Vallisneri corresponded with Martin Lister, and from 1703, with Sir Hans Sloane, prominent scientists in Great Britain. His acquaintance with them led to his admission to the Royal Society of London in late 1703. In 1710, Vallisneri published "Considerazioni, ed Esperienze intorno al creduto Cervello di Bue impietrito" (Considerations and experiments on the alleged petrified ox brain), "Considerazioni, ed Esperienze intorno alla Generazione de’ Vermi ordinari del corpo umano" (Considerations and experiments on the generation of common worms in the human body), and "Prima Raccolta d’Osservationi" (First collection of observations). In these works, he demonstrated that certain parasitic larvae found in animal tissues were caused by flies. This work brought him international recognition, as evidenced by his correspondence with other scientists.

In 1713, Vallisneri published "Esperienze, ed Osservazioni intorno all’Origine, Sviluppi, e costumi di vari Insetti" (Experiments and observations on the origin, development, and habits of various insects) and "Nuove Osservazioni, ed Esperienze intorno all’Ovaia scoperta ne’ Vermi tondi dell’Uomo, e de’ Vitelli" (New observations and experiments on the ovaries found in roundworms of humans and calves). In 1715, he published "Istoria del Camaleonte Affricano" (History of the African chameleon), and in 1721, "Istoria della Generazione dell’Uomo, e degli Animali" (History of human and animal generation) and "De’ Corpi marini, che su’ Monti si trovano" (On marine bodies found on mountains).

Three years after Vallisneri's death, a collection of all his works, "Observaciones y disertaciones sobre la f?sica, la medicina y la historia natural" (Observations and dissertations on physics, medicine, and natural history), was published in three volumes.

Vallisneri's writing style was clear and precise. He followed in Galileo's footsteps by using the Italian language for his scientific treatises. His choice of Italian as the language of scientific works was bold for the scientific community of that time, which still favored Latin as the "language of knowledge." Vallisneri was highly respected as a scientist and his contributions continue to be appreciated in the scientific community.