470J Francesco Redi; (1626-1697) Smarrito
Francisci Redi, patritii aretini, Experimenta circa generationem insectorvm : ad nobilissimum virum Carolvm Dati.
Amstelodami : Sumptibus Andreae Frisii, 1671. Price $1,800
Duodecimo 13½ x 7½ cm. Signatures: *⁶ A-O¹² P⁶. The frontispiece is a Woman scientist looking through a microscope by Romeyn de Hooghe dated 1670/There is a publisher’s device on title page with: “Optimi convltores mortvi.” 10 Folded plates unnumbered and bound with text; plates numbered I-XXVIII bound at end. Plus one full page plate and one ¾ page engraving. This is a very clean copy bound in 17th century French calf with gilt spine and label.
Redi was one of the most important scientists who challenged Aristotle’s traditional study of science. Redi gained fame for his controlled experiments. One set of experiments refuted the popular notion of spontaneous generation—a belief that living organisms could arise from nonliving matter. Redi has been called the “father of modern parasitology” and the “founder of experimental biology”.
Nissen, C., Zoologische Buchillustration,; 3320
Francesco Redi is known for his early use of controlled experiments and his challenge to the theory of spontaneous generation and had a bit of a very interesting exchange with Kircher. In 1668, in one of the first examples of a biological experiment with proper controls, Redi set up a series of flasks containing different meats, half of the flasks sealed, half open. He then repeated the experiment but, instead of sealing the flasks, covered half of them with gauze so that air could enter.
There are many parallels between Francesco Redi and Galileo Galilei. Both were radical thinkers that challenged Aristotelian thought. It was Aristotle who proposed life-forms such as maggots spontaneously generated, and it was Redi who proved this false. Both wrote in Italian instead of Latin. Both graduated from the University of Pisa and went on to be associated with the court of the Medicis. Both are associated with advances in scientific methods.There was one big difference between the two. Galileo had a major clash with the church later in life (the Galileo Affair) and Francesco died without encountering any major dispute with the church. This is odd. Francesco Redi was defending scientific ideas that were as radical as Galileo’s yet his experience was completely different. Could Galileo’s personality and his personal and professional disagreements with the other scientists of the day explain the difference? And leaving personality aside, could the difference be that Francesco Redi provided better arguments than did Galileo?