• Matrices, not seeds. Vallisneri’s research on mines: between empiricism and philosophy

    Francesco Luzzini (see profile)
    Alchemy, Science Studies and the History of Science
    Science, History, Alchemy, Seventeenth century, Eighteenth century, Natural history
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Mineralogy, Earth Sciences History, Mining, Natural Philosophy, Anthropocene, History of science, 17th century, 18th century
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    Since the beginning of his scientific activity the physician and naturalist Antonio Vallisneri (1661-1730) devoted many studies to the Earth sciences. In those years his interest focused particularly on the features of mineral kingdom and its relationship with spring water. The first observations date back to the last decade of XVII century, when the author analysed the gypsum and sulphur veins on the Monte Gesso, in the Duchy of Modena and Reggio. Some years later, during one of his journeys across the northern Apennines in search for the origin of springs, Vallisneri reached the Este domain of Garfagnana. There he explored the iron caves of Fornovolasco: this experience allowed him to support his theory with many empirical information, later exposed in the Lezione Accademica intorno all’Origine delle Fontane (1715). The many data collected by Vallisneri encouraged him to outline a theoretical interpretation of mineral genesis. He supposed the mineral veins as developed by ‘seeds’ released in the Earth by God. The successful growth of ore veins, therefore, depended on the more or less favourable environment they would have found by accident. These ‘seeds’, as the author clarified, were not intended to be the very same of ‘perfect germs of generation’ typical of animals or plants. Rather, they were ‘matrices’ that had to be detected in order to exploit the wealth of mines posed, in a proper Leibnizian conception, ‘by God for world’s use’.
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    6 years ago
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