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Alpini [Alpino], Prospero

1. Dates
Born: Marostica (Vicenza), 23 Nov. 1553
Died: Padua, 23 Nov. 1616
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 63
2. Father
Occupation: Physician
Francesco Alpino, an eminent physician.
As always, I assume that such were affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: Marostica (Vicenza), Italy
Career: Italy
Death: Padua, Italy
4. Education
Schooling: Padua, M.D., Ph.D.
Educated in University of Padua, 1574-8. M.D., 1578; Ph.D. 1578.
Alpini was a prominent student, elected to various offices in the university.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Botany, Medicine, Pharmacology
Subordinate: Natural History, Zoology
Main works: De plantis Aegypti, (1592) a pioneering study of Egyptian flora that introduced exotic plants to European botanical circles. He had already published De balsamo dialogus (1591), which was on a specific plant. As a physician he was greatly interested in the pharmacological properties of the plants.
De rerum aegyptarum, published long after Alpini's death, was a pioneering contribution of Aegyptology. It was more about Egyptian natural history than anything else.
De medicina Aegyptiorum (1591) was one of the earliest studies of non-European medicine.
De praesagienda vita (1601) was a detailed study of prognostics.
There were other publications in medicine and botany.
Bk IV of De rerum aegyptarum describes many of the animals of Egypt.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Academia, Medicine
Secondary: Government, Schoolmastering
He practiced medicine in Camposampiero (near Padua) for a short time (1578-80) with a stipend from the municipal government, but then became physician to Giorgio Emo, the Venetian consul to Cairo, in 1580. After a hard trip, he arrived in Cairo in 1581 and remained there until 1584.
After his return from Egypt, he practiced for a time in Bassano. About 1587 he became personal physician to Andrea Doria in Genoa, where he also had a private practice. He returned to Venice in 1590.
He was elected by the Venetian Senate to be lettore dei semplici at the University of Padua in 1594, and became director of the botanical garden at Padua in 1603.
Like all professors at Padua, he gave private lessons.
He continued to be active as a physician in Padua.
8. Patronage
Type: Aristrocrat
Giorgio Emo and Andrea Doria; see above. Antonio Morosini, a friend of the family to whom Alpini dedicated De medicina aegyptiorum, recommended him to Emo.
When Alpini was pursuing appointment in Padua, he dedicated his De balsamo dialogus (1591) to the Riformatori (in effect the Trustees) of the university. He republished it, with the same dedication in 1592. He was appointed in 1594. In 1601, the year of his reappointment, he dedicated De praesagienda vita to the Riformatori.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
His master was Melchiore Guilandino, the second director of the botanical garden at Padua.
Alpini carried on correspondence with other naturalists, in Italy and abroad.
  1. Augusto Beguinot," Prospero Alpini" in Aldo Mieli, ed., Gli scienziati italiani dall'inizio del medio evo ai nostri giorni, I, pt. I (Rome, 1921), pp.84-90.
  2. P.A. Saccardo, "La botanica in Italia," Memorie del Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 26 and 27 (1895 and 1901).
  3. Dizionario biografico degli italiani Giuseppe Ongaro, "Contributi alla biografia di Prospero Alpini," Acta medicae historiae patavina, 8-9 (1961-2 and 1962-3), 82- 128.
  4. G.M.Mazzuchelli, Gli scrittori d'Italia, (Brescia, 1753- ), 1, pt. 1, 518-21.
  5. Pietro Capparoni, Profili bio-bibliografici di medici e naturalisti celebri italiani dal sec. XV al sec. XVII, 2 vols. (Rome, 1925-28), 1, 20-3. In the copy I have, vol. 1 is from the second ed,(1932) and vol. 2 from the first (1928). I gather that pagination in the two editions is not identical.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. G.Fasoli and C. Cappelletti, " Prospero Alpini(1553-1616)" in Rassegna trimestrale di odontoiatria, 41 (1960) pp.597-613 G.B. Marangoni, Prospero Alpino, cenno biografico-scientifico, (Bassano, 1897).
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University
Note: the creators of the Galileo Project and this catalogue cannot answer email on geneological questions.
1995 Al Van Helden
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