Saturday, December 29, 2018

Anselmus De Boodt

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Anselmus De Boodt (1550-1632)

He was a Flemish humanist mineralogist physician and naturalist.(3) de Boodt and Georgius Agricola were fathers of modern mineralogy.(3)

Anselmus de Boodt was born in 1550 from an aristocratic family in Flanders.(3) He studied artes and canonical and civil law.(3) At the end of his studies he went to Padua around 1576.(3) Years later in 1583 De Boodt went to Bohemia where he was appointed personal physician of the holy roman Emperor Rudolf II, and the principal curator of Ridolf’s Kunstkammer in Prague, one of the greatest cabinets of curiosities in Europe.(1) During his stay at Emperor Rudolf II court he studied medicine. In 1584 was appointed canon(a priest) of St. Donat’s Church.

 In 1586 he returned to Padua to continue his medicine study, and obtained a doctorate. The next year he was installed in the imperial botanical garden of Emperor Rudolf II in Prague. One of his De Boodt’s special interests was in minerals, and in 1609 he published one of the first mineralogical treatises of the late Renaissance: Gemmarum et lapidum historia (History of Gems and Stones).(1) At the time of De Boodt fossils were considered to be stones.(1) Many of the illustrations in De Boodt’s books were of fossils. (1)

 He produced the first systematic treatise on minerals, called Gemmarum et lapidum historia. (2) In it, he describes and classifies over 600 minerals based on his own observations and lists over 200 more mentioned by others.(2) He used various categories to classify minerals, dividing them into great and small, rare and common, transparent to opaque, and combustible to incombustible, as well as noting crystalline structure. (2) He also used a three-degree scale of hardness.

De Boodt made many watercolours of native and exotic animals and plants.(3) He filled twelve volumes with 728 illustrations of quadrupeds reptiles birds fish insects and plants.(3) He aimed to depict all creatures of the natural world.(3) He developed a taxonomy and standardisation, which he added in many languages to his drawings. De Boodt made most drawings himself, but sometimes enlisted other artists, such has his compatriot, Elias verhulst.

Works Referenced

John Needham

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John Needham was born on sept. 10, 1713 in London. In his life he made important contributions to botany, supported spontaneous generation and explained the mechanics of pollen. During his youth Needham became a Franciscan and studied at the English College at Dubai in northern France from 1722-1736.(2) He was ordained in 1738, but spent most of his time as a teacher and tutor. From 1736-1744 Needham taught at multiple colleges.

Spontaneous Generation
During the time at the colleges he made microscopic observations on blighted wheat, and investigations into the organs of squids. These investigations were the subjects of his first works.(2) He returned to England in 1745 because of health reasons.(2) He became a staunch advocate of spontaneous generation (life from inorganic matter) from his previous observations.(1;2) In 1750 he presented his theory of spontaneous generation and showed his experimental evidence. In 1767 he retired to the English seminary at Paris to continue his scientific experiments.(1) He served as the director of the imperial academy at brussels until 1780 a year before his death.(1) He died on Dec. 30 1781 at age 68.(2)

In 1747 he was elected as a member of the Royal Society.(3) A year after in 1748 he was invited to examine fluids from reproductive organs of animals, and from his observations concluded that the globules he saw were organic molecules.(3) Needham thought that new organisms tooks shape from these globules.(3) He “saw” certain species of microorganisms give birth to other microscopic creatures.(3) This theory put Needham in the Vitalist camp on life.(3)

Franz Xaver Von Wulfen

Franz Xaver von Wulfen was born in Belgrade.  After studies in Kaschau, Hungary, he joined the Jesuits in 1745. (1) In 1753, he became a teacher of grammar at Gorizia, then taught at the Theresianum in Vienna the year after. In 1755, he began theological studies in Graz, and in 1763 he was ordained a priest. The year after his ordination he moved to Klagenfurt, which remained his home until his death of pneumonia in 1805. From 1764 to 1768, he taught physics, mathematics, logic, and metaphysics, although not all at once. Then in 1768 he left teaching to become a pastor.

After 1773, he began extensive travel to Holland, Venice and Trieste, the coasts of the Adriatic Sea, and Istria (the last being the largest peninsula in the Adriatic Sea). There, he gathered information about rocks, flowers, and animals. He was a distinguished scholar and botanist and known for his exact descriptions of the areas he traveled through and the things he found there. “His floristic studies, which appeared in print, were characterized by good observation and accurate descriptions.” (2)

In 1775, he wrote the first detailed description of the mineral lead molybdenum, complete with colored illustrations of the crystal. In 1845, the mineralogist Wilhelm Karl von Haidinger named the lead molybdate mineral wulfenite after Fr. Wulfen. (3)

Wulfen was a dedicated botanist and distinguished scholar. (3)
Many plants bear the species/subspecies name “wulfenii” in his honor. (3)

Giuseppe Mercalli

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Italy 1850-1814 Giuseppe Mercalli was an Italian volcanologist, seismologist, and Roman Catholic Priest.(1) He is best known for developing an earthquake intensity scale. (1) Born and educated in Milan, he became a professor at a local seminary after graduating college. (1) Mercalli was soon removed from the seminary, but the Italian government quickly found him new positions in schools across the country.(1)

 In 1892, he had relocated to Naples, where he would spend the rest of his life by the volcano he studied most closely, Vesuvius.(1) He died a mysterious death in 1914, burning in a fire in his apartment. At first, it was deemed an accident, but within days speculation arose that he was murdered. (1)

His most famous achievement to solid earth science is his work on the earthquake intensity scale. While studying seismic activity in Italy in the late 19th century, his access to seismic instruments was limited. (1) Some seismographs and seismoscopes (devices that signal an earthquake has occured, and sometimes indicate direction) were available, but most of his information came from personal observation of damage and listening to accounts. (1) To provide some consistency to his earthquake analyses, he decided he need a method to rate the relative effects of each event.

 (1)  At first, his scale had six degrees, but he soon realized he needed more precision. (1) ARound the same time, another intensity scale, the deRossi-Forel scale was gaining in prominence. (1) It had ten degrees of intensity, but lacked detail in the description of each degree. In 1902 Mercalli modified this scale to include the detail he desired, and his new scale quickly caught on among Europe’s scientists. (1 )It was tweaked by other seismologists to twelve degrees and also had more refined descriptions. (1) This edited version was called the Modified Mercalli intensity Scale. (1)

The Mercalli intensity scale is from 1 to 12. This link will provide more information and a comparison between the Richter and Modified Mercalli scales:

Works Referenced

Further Reading

Part 2 Earthquakes Intensity: Modified Mercalli Scale 

Niccolo Cabeo

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Niccolo Cabeo (1561-1636)

Cabeo, a Catholic priest who joined the Jesuits in 1602, is known for his two major publications, Philosophia magnetica (Magnetic philosophy)and In quatuor libros meteorologicorum Aristotelis commentaria (Commentary in four books on Aristotle’s Meteorology).(1)

His academic career happened mainly in Parma, following typical Jesuit curriculum, and included studying logic, natural philosophy, metaphysics, and theology, as well as mathematics.(1) After finishing his studies in 1616, he taught theology, philosophy, and metaphysics at Parma until 1621, then spending several years living at the Jesuit college in Ferrara, his birthplace, and also taught theology in the late 1620s.(1)

 His first book explained not only his own experimental investigations of terrestrial magnetism but also Gilbert’s, as well as explaining magnetized iron and lodestone, the mineral magnetite. (2) He also contributed to physics experiments, observing the Giovanni Battista Baliani experiments about falling objects.(2)

 He also experimented with pendulums.(2) Niccolo thought that the earth was immobile, and had no magnetic field.(1) In his first book Philosophia magnetica Cabeo stressed that all of his work sought out the causes of natural effects, saying that every discussion and idea he had was based upon experimental work, with the experiments being repeatedly performed.(2) Cabeo also confirmed Galileo’s claims that two bodies, no matter the weight, tend to fall at the same rate, as opposed to the heavier one falling faster, as long as they were of the same material.(2)

 At the end of his life, he returned to teaching at a Jesuit college.(1)

Niccolo Cabeo presented a new style of natural and experimental philosophy, becoming one of the most influential Jesuit natural philosophers of his time.(2)

Sources cited:

Pierre-André Latreille

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Pierre-André Latreille “studied theology and was ordained [as a] priest in 1786, after which he retired to Brives and spent his leisure in the study of entomology.” (4) 

"In 1790, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy was declared. This law required clergymen to take an oath that they would guard with care the dioceses confided to them, support the constitution decreed by the National Assembly, and be loyal to the nation, to the law, and … to the king.” (3) For one reason or another, Fr. Latreille did not attend the oath ceremony, and was subsequently arrested. He “endured a long imprisonment, first in Brive then in Bordeaux (from November 1793 to January 1795).” (2) During his imprisonment, he noticed  a rare kind of beetle, and commented on it to the prison doctor. “The ... doctor was so impressed by [the young man's] knowledge that, according to, “[the doctor] sent the beetle to a 15-year-old local naturalist named Jean Baptiste Bory de Saint-Vincent. Bory de St.-Vincent was already well aware of Latreille’s remarkable work and because of Bory de St.-Vincent’s efforts, Latreille and one of his cellmates were released. This was fortunate because a month later Latreille’s other cellmates were executed.” I think the site is leaving something out, because a 15 year old man is not likely to have much power in local government, on average, but that may be my own modern biases.

“Latreille was also the first person to attempt to classify arthropods (an invertebrate animal like a insect or spider), and he added greatly to the number of known genera and then grouped the genera into families.” (3) His book, published in 1796, “marks the beginning of modern entomology,” and because of this he is known as the Father of Entomology. (1) Three years after he published the book, he became the head of the entomology department at the National Museum of Natural History in Paris. Then, “in 1829 he succeeded Jean Lamarck as professor of zoology in crustaceans, arachnids, and insects at the National Museum of Natural History.” (1)


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Augustino Salumbrino

Malaria has been a scourge on humanity for many thousands of years, spread by parasites in mosquitoes. It rendered large swaths of the Earth essentially uninhabitable, killing millions of people across the world. Malaria was a serious threat for the ancient world, especially with the hegemony of the Roman Empire, possibly even assisting the fall of Rome. Unlike our modern cold and flu season, Malaria was very deadly, causing widespread panic with the major seasonal outbreaks. Large areas surrounding Rome could not be fully settled because of the danger of Malaria.

Even within the cities, a grave threat of Malaria outbreaks arose due to the great quantities of standing water for public baths and agriculture. The authorities eventually realized the dangers of standing water and ordered the creation of an entire sewer system in Rome, called the Cloaca Maxima. The drainage system reduced the magnitude of the threat sufficiently to keep Rome functional. (5) It was an enormous improvement, demonstrated in part by the abandonment of some of the cities that lacked drainage systems due to the threat of the persistent plague. Some researchers theorize that without the Cloaca Maxima, Rome may have become permanently crippled, thereby shifting the course of history. (5)

Meanwhile, in Asia the prevalence of Malaria slowed the development of Southern China, creating a noticable difference between the North and the South regions of China. Even the passage of time failed to fully blunt the threat of Malaria. Malaria dogged the soldiers of the Civil War and the workers at the Panama Canal. (6) Even during the early years of WWII, more American troops were dying because of Malaria than because of enemy action. (4) Malaria also created severe issues in colonising Africa. The Americas, significant portions of Asia, and even Australia were conquered while only about a tenth of Africa had been colonized even into the 1800s. (5) Of course Africa was home to a variety of deadly diseases, which ravaged both native and foreigner alike, but Malaria was certainly a prominent reason Africa could not be easily colonized. (5)

In essence, Malaria was a worldwide threat which forced the creation of the CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, the balance shifted dramatically with the introduction of large scale doses of quinine available. (5) Quinine was a compound created from the bark of the cinchona tree, known also as the quina quina tree or the ‘fever tree’. The bark was dried, turned to powder, and put with water, sweetened in the hopes of hiding the taste, then distributed as medication.(5) The actual compound of quinine wasn’t isolated until 1820. (4) When the British got ahold of this medicine, they tried combining it with gin, thus creating the gin and tonic. (3)

It was quite an effective treatment and once Dutch plantations at Java were created, there was a good supply of quinine. (4) Of course, getting that supply was quite tricky once Spain managed to establish a monopoly on the Andes supply source and it took until 1865 before the Dutch got ahold of enough seeds for their plantations at Java.(5)

But how did this start? In the 1600s, the Jesuits were in Peru trying to convert the natives and while on their theological mission, discovered the effects of the bark of a particular tree. (4) The three most notable Jesuits were Antonio de la Calancha, Agustino Salumbrino, Bernabé de Cobo, though Cardinal Juan de Lugo is another contender. (5, 4) Of the three, Antonio de la Calancha is the most certain to have some bearing on the tale. He was the first European to record the effects of the cinchona bark on fever in general, and Malaria in particular. So far, so simple.

The trick is to determine who precisely brought the Jesuit bark back to Europe.Note that the bark may also be referred to as Countess’s Bark (2) or Cardinal’s Bark (4)  due to conflicting accounts of who sent the quinine bark -- not to mention titles like ‘fever bark’ or ‘Peruvian bark’ that are simply too generic and vague to be useful. (4) The countess allegedly discovered the effects of the bark while dying of malaria and either went herself or sent her husband to Europe with the cure. The largest issue with this claim is the Count’s diary, found in 1930, contradicts it (5, pg 60).

One source claimed that it was quinine was sent to Europe by an unknown monk named Agustino Sulumbrino, but he is unfortunately just that, almost entirely unknown. (2) If Agustino Salumbrino had, in fact, distributed the cure, he may have done so because Pope Urban VIII requested it. Urban had seen the effects of Malaria firsthand while he and the other cardinals had been gathered to elect the next Pope. (2) Assuming Salumbrino was responsible, the cure reached Europe in the 1630s. Another possibility is that Jesuit missionary Bernebé de Cobo was travelling to Peru and personally took samples back to Spain, then Rome in 1632.(5)

Either way, a Jesuit priest attempting to help the native Peruvians was responsible for finding the effect, and another was responsible for getting initial shipments to Europe. Once the cure arrived in Rome, Cardinal Juan de Lugo’s role was quite plain. Getting distribution well underway. He was extremely excited with the new remedy and decided to show it to suffering residents of Rome, in a sort of preliminary clinical trial. Extraordinarily pleased with the fabulous results, he went on to personally distribute the cure to the poor and recommended it be sent throughout Europe through the Catholic missions. The tree bark remedy quickly entered the Roman pharmaceutical handbook, Schedula Romana. (5)

Protestants had rather a different take. They were deeply distrustful of anything Catholic to begin with, and acknowledging the Catholics were a) correct, and b) not trying to harm them,  were extremely difficult hurdles to pass over. (5) Of course, this skepticism was not solely limited to Protestants, but the most vehement skeptics were Protestant, with the frequent belief anything coming from Catholics was a vengeful scheme. In the case of quinine, some were convinced it was some kind of poison. (5) Over time, Jesuit’s bark was gradually accepted, but it took over a century and multiple high-profile cases before the remedy was accepted. (5)

Works Referenced
1) Blass, B. (April 24, 2015) Basic Principles of Drug Discovery and Development
2) Mukhtar, O. The Miraculous Fever Tree: Malaria, Medicine, and the Cure that Changed
the World [Review]  (July 9th, 2003)
3) Eplett, L. (August 20, 2015). Quinine and Empire.
4) National Academies Press (September 9th, 2004). Saving Lives, Buying Time:
Economics of Malaria Drugs in a Age of Resistance.
5) Loomis. J. S. (January 18, 2018)  Epidemics: The Impact of Germs and Their Power
Over Humanity (pages 57-61)
6) Tale of a bark with bite (April 30, 2004)

Further Reading
Antonio de La Calancha

Economics and Ethics: Juan de Lugo’s Theory of the Just Price, or the Responsibility of Living
in Society.

Full Text of “The cinchona barks : pharmacognostically considered”

Pierre-Joseph Pelletier