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Redi, Francesco

1. Dates
Born: Arezzo, 18 Feb. 1626
Died: Pisa, 1 March 1697 (DSB says 1697 or 98, but Capparoni and Belloni are quite definite in saying 1697, and Viviani gives the date: 1 March 1697.)
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 71
2. Father
Occupation: Physician
His father was a renowned physician who worked, beginning in 1642, at the Medici court.
As always, I assume the family was at least affluent. I suspect they were in fact wealthy, but I won't guess.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Pisa, M.D., Ph.D.
His early education was with the Jesuits in Arezzo. He graduated with a doctorate in philosophy and medicine, in a common Italian style, from the University of Pisa in 1647. I assume a B.A.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Zoology, Embryology, Entomology
Subordinate: Microscopy, Anatomy, Physiology
His masterpiece is considered to be Esperienze introrno alla generazione degli insetti (1668), in which he disproved the doctrine of spontaneous generation in insects.
His major parasitological treatise, Osservazioni intorno agli animali viventi (1684), was an abundant compilation on endoparasitic helminths found in the organs of different classes of animals.
He performed countless experiments on the effects of snakebite.
Redi performed many dissections of all sorts of creatures, so that he could have put together virtually a comparative anatomy. In his dissections, and in other work, he made extensive use of the microscope. Physiological issues were never absent from his anatomical dissections.
In addition to the disciplines above, Redi could easily be listed as well under medicine, pharmacology, and chemistry.
Redi was also a leading literary figure, a poet, and from 1665 he occupied the chair of Tuscan language in the Florentine Academy. He was also quite a linguist.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Patronage, Medicine, Government
Secondary: Personal Means
He served at the Medici court, of which he became a part at least by 1660. He was appointed archiatro in 1666, with a salary of 800 piastre, and superintendent of the ducal pharmacy and foundry. (The word is "fonderia." The dictionary gives only foundry, but one citation made me wonder if it could have meant something to do with pharmacy.) Redi was more than physician to two successive Grand Dukes (Ferdinando II and Cosimo III); he was also friend and counsellor. He was tutor to the crown prince Ferdinando, the son of Cosimo III. He was so close to the court that he became an avenue by which others tried to gain access to the court. Thus books were dedicated to him; both Bellini and Zambeccara, among others, dedicated books to him.
He also practiced medicine in Florence, and he gained a considerable fortune from his various activities.
He also had an estate at Arezzo from the family.
8. Patronage
Type: Court Official
He was personal physician to the Grand Duke and superintendent of the pharmacy at the Medici court. The Grand Duke Ferdinando and his brother Leopoldo gave Redi a number of books sumptuously bound. They furnished him with game from the hunt and wine from their cellar, and he in turn sent them wine from the family estate at Arezzo. When the Grand Duchess Vittoria, the wife of Ferdinando, died, she left a special legacy to Redi. Once when Redi was sick, the Grand Duke twice left a long (five hour) opera to come to visit him. Cosimo III had three medals struck in his honor, and Redi in turn had a medal struck in 1687 with his own effigy on the front and on the rear a ship on the high seas and in the sky Jupiter (the symbol of the Grand Duke) with the four satellites and the legend, Sono il mio segno, e 'l mio conforto solo.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Pharmacology
Redi did extensive work in experimental pharmacology.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Accademia del Cimento, 1657-67, Medical College
He was also a member of the Accademia della Crusca (1665-- Arciconsolo from 1678-90), of the Arcadia in Rome, and of the Gelati in Bologna.
He became a member of the Florentine Collegio medico in 1648.
He was a close friend of Magalotti and befriended Cestoni, who would not have accomplished what he did without Redi's support. He corresponded very widely, with Bellini, Magalotti, Magliabecchi, Viviani, Tomaso Ceva, Montanari, Borelli, Kircher, Bourdelot, Steno and others. His correspondence has been published.
Sources
  1. Luigi, Belloni, "Francesco Redi, biologo," in Celebrazione dell'Accademia de Cimento nel tricentenario della fondazione, Dormus Galileiana, 19 Giugno 1957, (Pisa, 1958), pp. 53-70.
  2. Pietro Capparoni, Profili bio-bibliografici di medici e naturalisti celebri italiani dal sec. XV al sec. XVII, 2 vols. (Rome, 1925-28), 1, 79-81. 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.
  3. P.A. Saccardo, "La botanica in Italia," Memorie del Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 26 (1895), 136-7, and 27 (1901), 90 Dezeimeris, J.E. Ollivier and Raige-Delorme, Dictionnaire historique de la medecine ancienne et moderne, 4 vols. (Paris, 1828-39), 3, 790. The names, without first names or initials except for Ollivier, appear this way on volume 1; Dezeimeris alone appears on the remaining volumes..
  4. Ugo Viviani, Vita ed opere inedite di Francesco Redi, 3 vols., (Arezzo, 1924-1931).
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. Andrea Corsini, "Sulla vita di Francesco Redi. Nuovo contributo di notizie," Rivista di storia delle scienze mediche e naturali, 13 (1922), 86-93.
  2. M. Cardini, "Francesco Redi" in Vite dei mediche e naturalisti celebri, ed. Andrea Corsini, (Firenze, 1914), 2.
  3. Paula Findlen, "Controlling the Experiment: Rhetoric, Court Patronage and the Experimental Method of Francesco Redi," History of Science, 31 (1993), 35-64.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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1995 Al Van Helden
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