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

Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri

Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri was born in Sept, 1667, in Genoa (Italy). He is known for making the logical deductions that lead to non-euclidean geometry.

Saccheri entered the Jesuit order in 1685, and two years later started teaching at the Jesuit college until 1690. From there he went to Milan, and learned was taught philosophy and theology at the Jesuit college of Brera. One of Saccheri’s teachers was Tommaso Ceva, best known as a poet, but also a mathematician.(2) Through Tommaso, Saccheri met Tommaso’s brother Giovanni, a mathematician who is known for his theorem in the geometry of triangles (1678). The Ceva brothers imparted their enthusiasm in mathematics to Saccheri.(3) Through influence from Giovanni, and with assistance in writing from Tommaso, Saccheri wrote his first mathematical work Quaesita geometrica (1693), in which he solved problems from elementary, and coordinate geometry. Ceva sent this book to Vincenzo Viviani, one of the last surviving pupils of Galileo, who in 1692 had challenged the learned world with a problem in analysis known as the Window of Viviani.(2) Although it had been solven by others, Viviani published his own solution, and sent one to Saccheri in exchange for the Quaesita. Two letters from Saccheri to Viviani have been preserved, one of which shows Saccheri’s solution. In 1694 he was ordained a priest at Como, he was then sent to teach Philosophy in Turin. Here Saccheri wrote Logica Demonstrativa (1679), which was on definitions, Saccheri distinguishes between two definitions the first ‘definitiones quid nominis’ or ‘nominis’ which are supposed to give the meaning of the term defined, and the second ‘definitiones quid rei’ or ‘reales’ which gives the meaning of the term, and claims that the concept exists. In the same year, he was sent to the Jesuit College of Pavia. In 1699, he started teaching philosophy at the university (again), at which he occupied the chair of mathematics until his death. At Pavia Saccheri wrote two books Neo-statica (1708), and Euclides ab omni naevo vindicatus (1733), the second of which contains the classic text that made Saccheri the precursor to non-euclidean geometry. Saccheri’s two books the Logica and the Euclides showed his interest in Eulclid’s fifth postulate, with the Logica investigating the nature of definitions, and the Euclides attempting to prove the fifth postulate(the parallel postulate).(2)

Euclid combined all the known information on mathematics in 13 books.(1) But, before he could arrange this information into theorems he had to articulate the unprovable premises that everyone took for granted like points and lines.(1) To do this he made 10 premises the first 5 “postulates” which dealt with geometry, and the second 5 “axioms” which were common in geometry and mathematics.(1) Nine of the premises were simple and convincing, but the 5th postulate was long and convoluted, compared to the rest and looked like a theorem.(1) An example is the first postulate which states “Two points determine one unique straight line.”, while the parallel postulate states “If a straight line falling on two straight lines makes the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if produced infinitely, meet on the side on which the angles are together less than two right angles”, this long postulate sounds like a theorem crying out for truth, and many geometers tried to provide one.(1)

Saccheri was one of these geometers, but he used a different method. Most of the geometers considered it more of an aesthetic problem than a logical one, but Saccheri was the first geometer to impose rigorous rules of logic in his attempt to get rid of Euclid’s “flaw”.(1) First Saccheri makes a quadrilateral “Given a line segment AB, construct segments AC and BD on the same side of AB such that AC = BD and both AC and BD are perpendicular to AB (Figure 9. 9). Then join C and D forming what is known today as a Saccheri Quadrilatera”(4) (4)
Without using the Parallel Postulate Saccheri was able to prove that the angles ACD and BDC were congruent, and he called these summit angles. He observed that only one of these following statements is true:
1) Right Angle Hypothesis: The summit angles are right angles.
2) Obtuse Angle Hypothesis: The summit angles are obtuse angles.
3) Acute Angle Hypothesis: The summit angles are acute angles. (4)
Saccheri was able to prove that the Parallel Postulate followed the Right Angle Hypothesis, and he planned to prove it right by showing that the two other hypotheses were untrue. (4) He was able to show that the Obtuse Angle Hypothesis was false because it contradicted the infinite length of a line, but he was never able to reach a contradiction. (4) The closest he got was “... the hypothesis of the acute angle is absolutely false; because it is repugnant to the nature of straight lines.” and later on he stated “I do not attain to proving the falsity of the other hypothesis, that of the acute angle, without previously proving that the line, all of whose points are equidistant from an assumed straight line lying in the same plane with it, is equal to this straight line.”

Even though Saccheri was never able to prove the Parallel Postulate, it is important to note that his reasoning on this subject have become part of mathematical logic (even though the mathematicians who discovered non-euclidean geometry had never heard of him ).(3;4)

Works Cited

Saccheri's Flaw while eliminating Euclid's "Flaw" The Evolution of Non-Euclidean Geometry
Saccheri, (Giovanni) Girolamo
Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri
Giovanni Girolamo Saccheri,%20Giovanni%20Girolamo.pdf

Louis Receuver

Jean François, Count of Lapérouse (also a Rear Admiral), commanded the world-spanning voyage at the behest of the reigning French King Louis in in 1785 as a French followup to the voyages of Captain Cook. The general scope of the mission was the Pacific, Asia, and Australia, with a secondary motive being to establish further trading contacts. However, the voyage ended up including such diverse locations as Chile, Russia, and Alaska--in addition to the general stipulations.4

They arrived at Botany Bay in 1788, sending off a report with the British ship Sirius and subsequently disappearing near the island of Vanikoro where shipwrecks were subsequently discovered.

The voyage had two ships, the Astrolabe (spelling varies) and the Boussole.4 The
As the purpose of the trip was scientific, Lapérouse brought a selection of scientists along, 17 to be specific.3 There were two priests along as well, Fathers Louis Receveur and Jean André Mongez.2 Both priests acted as scientists in addition to their religious duties. Receveur was a Franciscan Friar who had surprising experience in a variety of scientific fields despite his youth, twenty one or so at the start of the voyage. Prior to the journey, Receuver had

At the start of the voyage, Receuver was offered  a double paycheck, one for being a chaplain and the second for acting as a natural historian. He acted tireleslessly in his scientific role, observing the geological formations when unable to do anything else, and ascending mountains to expand his knowledge of the area.1 His attitude towards gathering data earned him praise from his commanders and meant he was frequently included on the expeditions to land.

All the scientists took every opportunity to gather information, but eventually the expedition as a whole ran into trouble in 1788, a dozen members killed by natives at the Samoan Island of Tutuila, including a senior scientist.1 2 3  Receuver probably survived this attack, but died within a fortnight after, possibly because of the injuries sustained.2 3

Works Referenced
Pere Louis Receuver
Receuver Laperouse & the First Fleet
Receuver Monument
The Voyage of La Perouse Round the World in the years 1785, 1786, 1787, and 1788,

Juan Ignacio Molina

Chile 1740-1829

This scientist was also a Chilean Jesuit. He joined the order at age fifteen, only to be forced to leave ten days after his ordination because of the suppression of the Jesuit order. Even while he was being exiled from his native land, he continued to keep observing the world around him and he became an accomplished scientist in natural history, geography, geology, and biology.

Juan Ignacio Molina was born in Chile in 1740 and was entered into the Jesuit Order when he was fifteen, though he was not a full Jesuit for the next eighteen years while he completed his training. He learned a variety of subjects, scientific and philosophical, and gained fluency in five languages: Spanish, Greek, Latin, Italian, French. (2) Additionally, Molina was a poet. A particularly notable poem, written in Latin and titled ‘Latin Elegies’ detailed his debilitating experience of smallpox. (2, 8) He was a teacher for a few years, though his talent was too great to solely be a teacher and he was reassigned to studying theology. (4) Throughout his scholastic career he shifted through the various towns of Chile, becoming a professor and librarian in the Jesuit’s Santiago station, capital of Chile. (4)

However, in 1767 all the Jesuits were exiled from Chile by order of the Spanish King, Carlos III (4)
The Jesuits were exiled because of how they had hindered the colonizing efforts of various European powers. (7) Therefore, at age twenty-seven Molina and his fellow Jesuits were thrust into Europe. However, their journey was not quite direct. First, the Jesuits had to travel to Peru, then over the Atlantic Ocean. When he was exiled from Chile, he had to go to Peru first, then travel over the Atlantic to reach Europe. (9) Even during his exile to Europe, Molina continued note the wildlife around him, observing flying fish and whales. (9) Their journey did not end in Spain, the home country of the Jesuits, because other exiles had already filled their doors. Instead, Molina and the other Jesuits journeyed to Imola, Italy, a small town near Bologna. (4)

Upon their arrival in Italy, in 1769, the Jesuits were first settled in Imola, a small town near Bologna. Immediately, Molina’s knowledge served him well as he was able to talk to the Italian governor and discuss natural history, a topic which fascinated the governor. (9)

Eventually, Molina moved to the nearby city of Bologna and became the chair of Greek at the University of Bologna. Eventually, he became a professor of natural sciences, the work for which he is best known. (2) Molina was the first American member of Italian Institute of Science and Arts (2). He continued to study and teach, slowly making his way to official membership in the order. He finally passed the necessary exams and became a full member of the Jesuit order on August 15th, feast of the Assumption, 1773, at thirty-three years of age. (4)

Then on August 25th, the Pope published the order to suppress the Jesuits and Molina was forced to leave the order, after mere ten days. (4) Nearly all the European nations had gotten tired of Jesuits resisting their wishes and pressured the Pope. Clement XIV, into suppressing the order outright. All Jesuits had to officially leave the order, though some former Jesuits were highly regarded. (7) Russia was the only exception to the suppression order and became the only country where the Jesuit order remained, preferring to have the Jesuits around to revitalize their educational system. (7)

Molina would remain in Italy for the rest of his life. It was here that he began publishing scientific works, all of which were in Italian. (3) The first was the ‘Compendium of the Geographical, Natural, and Civil History of the Kingdom of Chile’ which explained a variety of aspects of Chile from its geography animal life to historical and anthropological elements. (2, 5, 6) The work is divided among three parts, Geography, Natural History, and Civil History. (6). The geographic discussion included the approximate size of the country, the basic political division and some geological information. (5) Natural History was a catchall term for several pursuits including botany and zoology, but essentially means biology. The Civil History section detailed the history of Chile from a cultural perspective, how Chile came to be.

Molina was a very thorough writer, trying to communicate information as swiftly and succinctly as possible, and used extensive footnote asides to achieve his aims. By necessity, this work was assembled from suboptimal sources; Molina’s manuscript had been detained at a ship in Peru, where the Jesuits had traveled before journeying to Europe. (2. 9)

In 1774, Molina moved to Bologna and started teaching at a school that taught a significant portion of the poorer students for free. (9) However, between widespread misinformation surrounding America, and his own nostalgia, Molina decided to write a book to explain Chile to Europe. (9)

Molina’s first attempt was the ‘Compendium of the Geographical, Natural, and Civil History of the Kingdom of Chile,’ a work divided into two parts and published in 1776. (9) The first dealt with the geography of Chile, its mountains, its size, the landscape and so on; the second part explained the culture of Chile’s native and Spanish populations. (9)  The timing was excellent: interest in America had increased significantly because of the American Revolution, and Molina’s work provided insight into a portion of the New World. (9)

It was successful, but the sources were not as comprehensive as Molina wished; the majority of Molina’s meticulous notes had been taken by customs agents when left Chile. After some years, he acquired his notes, and started again. He was so dedicated to providing a superior source that he published this second volume at his own expense in 1784. It was entitled ‘Essay on the Natural History of Chile.’ (9) The ‘Essay on Natural History’ was more detailed than its predecessor and was divided into four books. Molina aimed to use this book to prove the similarities between the New World and the Old, starting with a direct comparison in the introduction. (9) The ‘Essay on Natural History’ was extremely successful and translated into German, Spanish, French, and English. (2) In 1810, he published a second edition of the ‘Essay on the Natural History of Chile’ which had new data as a result of scientific expedition to Chile. Molina was also able to provide a new map. (9)

Molina’s writing was crucial because of its ability to dispel common myths of the time regarding America. Oftentimes, writers never actually had gone to America and were just making details up out of whole cloth. (9) Molina’s detailed and scientifically accurate work was a revolutionary take on America. Also, America was in a revolution at the time which generated significant interest in the American continent. (9)

Book One covered the geographical, climate, and natural disasters common in Chile, and Molina again made comparison to Italy. (9) One particular piece of misinformation Molina tried to correct was the notion that a 1751 earthquake had destroyed a city and redirected a river. (9) In reality, there were actually no casualties, in part because of a series of shocks before the main disaster. Molina continued this geological discussion, and used his own experience and observations to explain events, an attitude that distinguished him as a scientist. (9)

The Second Book examined the mineral aspect of Chile including rivers, lakes, rocks and soil. (9) As part of this section, Molina looked at the mining industry and agriculture. For one, Molina describes in detail the process of acquiring gold, from mining the ore to processing it at the foundry. (9) Molina also writes about geography in this section, noting the presence of various marine caves in Chile. (9)

Books Three and Four changed the focus from geographic and geological to biological. (9) Here, Molina explored the flora and fauna of Chile and organized them according to Linnaeus’ system. (3) He also wrote wrote about crops, general vegetation in the area, herbs, and the wine of Chile as compared to Italian wine. (9) Book Four was concerned with animals of all kinds whether in the sea, the air, or on the land. Molina also described the culture of Chile once again. (9)

Molina finished the book with two catalogs. The first listed all the new species he had described, even including rocks and minerals, according to Linnaeus’ classification. The second catalog was a glossary of various words particular to natural sciences at the time. (9) Even though it was a nostalgic work, it was very clearly of scientific value.

Molina continued as a professor of natural history in Bologna, though he contributed a last influential volume during this time. This volume, titled Memories on Natural History, was a collection of fourteen ‘memories,’ lectures Molina delivered from 1805 to 1815. (9)

Study of thermal springs
Physical and Mineral Study of the Bologna Mountains
On the Cultivation of Olives
On Marls
‘Less Noticed Analogies of the Three Kingdoms of Nature’
Gardens in Towns (green cities)
Whales in the South
Growing Trees
On Coal
Peru’s Mountain of Silver
‘On the Propagation of the Human Race in Different Parts of the World’
Cocoa, Vanilla, and Canela

The sixth was the most controversial, though the twelfth is also particularly noteworthy. (9) Overall, his lectures demonstrate an extensive grasp of scientific knowledge, but can mainly by split into two categories: geology and biology. (9) Lectures 1, 2, 10, and 11 deal with geology and mineralogy while lectures 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, and 14 deal principally with biology and agriculture.

Agriculture and environmentalism were a significant topic among these lectures; four of the fourteen were dedicated to the subject in various forms.The first lecture on the subject [#3] discussed the possibility of growing olives in the area around Bologna. Then, Molina discussed marls in #4, a type of calcium rich mud and its possible application as fertilizer. (9) He drew on his geological knowledge to explain the two varieties, marine volcanic and outcropper. He exposited why volcanic was the inferior option, and how to test for the ratio of clay to calcium carbonate. He recommended marls as fertilizer particularly in acidic soils, because of the presence of the basic calcium carbonate, and argued England already was using marls as fertilizer. Molina even had samples on hand for after the lecture. (9)
Molina was well-known for his knowledge of Agriculture and was given honorary membership of the Academia Private dei Georgofili in 1817 as a result. His seventh lecture was on the subject of enhancing the greenery in cities, again arguing England had already introduced this to their cities. Molina closed the lecture by discussing various types of trees present in the area near Bologna. The ninth lecture continued in that same vein by discussing the possibility, or necessity, of regrowing trees. (9)

His eighth lecture, Whales in the South, would be an environmental topic today, but at the time it was simply another scientific lecture. Molina set out to prove that European scientists were wrong about Chile and that whales actually existed in that region of the world. Discussed the methods of whale-hunting. (9) Molina also discussed various exoctic plants and possible health hazards. Specifically: Coffee [#5], Vanilla and other spices [#13], and Sugar [#14]. He also covered the coffee plant and how the drink was prepared in various places. Molina also brought up an example of fatal coffee overdosage. (9) Vanilla and other spices were commonly assumed to have health benefits, though these spices could pose a health hazard. He also talked about the widespread use of sugar and its health effects (9)

His sixth lecture was the one that merited the most controversy, however. He gave this lecture in three parts, and it was called ‘Less Noticed Analogies of the Three Kingdoms of Nature’ (9) It was delivered in 1815. Molina thought that the Three Kingdoms: Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, are interconnected. (9) He provided various evidence including the similarities between animal eggs and plant seeds, and the shape of crystals and plants’ fractal-like shapes. However, in discussing the widespread similarities, Molina unclearly used words so that it sounded as though he was attributing intelligence and reason to animals. (9) It could also be construed as an early version of evolution. (3)

This went against the philosophy of the time, the Great Chain of Being, which stated that everything exists in hierarchy in which God is at the summit and goes down to angels, men, animals, plants, and eventually matter in general. Each category has at least one superior attribute the category below lacks. (10) For example, Animals have existence, life, and a will, but not reason while humans have existence, life, a will and reason. (10) The categories are subdivided into further chains. For animals, the more rational-acting and noble a creature is, the higher it is on the chain, though still without reason. (10)

He was investigated for heresy and lost his teaching license. After years of investigation, he was finally acquitted, though his books were still reviewed and censored as deemed necessary. (9) Molina explained he had meant the words as an analogy, not literally. (9)

Rather than evolution however, Molina’s theory could be seen as reinforcing the preexisting philosophy of the ‘Great Chain of Being.’ Molina’s work fits well into this idea, and not as much into evolution. His work did not suggest that different categories of living things morphed from one to another, merely that they were connected more directly than previously assumed. (9, 10) Furthermore, Molina still believed everything was planned and created by God. (9)

Molina also wrote about the migration of humans to spread out across the Earth and argued they had crossed all manner of natural barriers, arguing humans did not just appear in Italy, as some people claimed at the time, but had travelled there. Molina also lectured on the settlement of America. He claimed that various parts of America were peopled at different times due to cultural differences. (9) The first humans appeared in America about a century after the biblical Great Flood, which was then believed to have been responsible for all fossils observed. (9) Later on, people like the Chilean natives came. Molina argued they arrived around the time Alexander the Great came to the Indus River because of the significant similarities to the Grecian and Asian culture. Molina also explained that people appear different because of their environment, not because they are actually that different. Humans at similar latitudes turned out completely differently given differing climates. (9)

The first, second, tenth, and eleventh memories were concerned with mineralogy and geology. (9) A smaller number of lectures perhaps, but still a significant portion of Molina’s work. None of these were so eye-catching as memories #6 or #12, just solid scientific work.

The first memory detailed his scientific expedition to thermal springs near Bologna where he conducted a geological analysis. He argues these springs could not have been created by volcanoes. It was too localized for seismological activities and lacked evidence for volcanic activity. (9) Instead, he argues that it was formed by flooding. The theory of diluvialism was quite popular at the time. Diluvialism was the idea that the Great Flood of Noah caused fossils. (9) In addition to his theories of how the mountains were formed, Molina returns to his favorite subject: the similarities between Chile and Italy. This time, the characteristics of volcanoes off the coast. (9)

The second memory was concerned with the allegation of the presence of gold, silver, and copper in the area, but Molina doubted the truth of these tales. (9) He argued ores similar in appearance, such as pyrite may have started these rumors, but they were definitely untrue. (9) He also discussed other materials like sandstone and gypsum, proposing his own theories and trying to correct misinformation. (9) The tenth memory was concerned with coal including how it was mined and used. (9) In the eleventh memory, Molina talked about Peru’s Mountain of Silver and its alleged existence. (9)

In 1798, the new king of Spain, Charles IV, allowed the former Jesuits to return to Chile. Molina decided not to; by that point, the political situation in Chile was volatile and Molina was in already almost sixty. (9) Only thirty-one Jesuits actually decided to return to Chile. (9)

Molina’s work is also notable because of the turbulent times in which he was writing. The Bologna Institute of Science had been pillaged in 1796 by the French, and Bologna’s scientific reputation was starting to fall by the wayside. (9) Napoleon was causing international strife for much of Molina’s publication career. (9)

In 1814, after the destruction wrought by the the French Revolution and Napoleon’s conquest, Pope Pius VII decided to reinstate the Jesuits officially so they could assist the rebuilding of Europe (7). Molina therefore, had the opportunity to return to to the Jesuit order, though he did not. He had maintained cordial relations with other exiled Jesuits. (1)

Molina had a bold style, often refuting the knowledge of the time when he had reason to believe it wrong . Knew what subjects he excelled in and worked tirelessly observing the natural world and theorizing based on his observations. He provided a fascinating look at Chile, applied his knowledge to a new land, kept his knowledge relevant by relating it to the local area, and tried to show how the Old World and New World were really all part of the same Earth. Molina wanted to connect things, to explain geology, the connections between species, how the human race spread across the globe and the mechanisms of agriculture. His areas of knowledge sounds small, but it turns out to be an almost all-encompassing study of nature.

When he was exiled from Chile, he did not protest, but just kept working as he went. No matter what challenges he faced, Molina decided not to complain. He turned his exile into a means of spreading knowledge of his country’s wonders, even at his own expense. All in all, a very accomplished naturalist and inspiring man.

Works Referenced
Juan Ignacio Molina: The World’s Window on Chile (review)
The Abbot Juan Ignacio Molina (1740-1829)
Biography of Juan Ignacio Molina (1740-1829)
Juan Ignacio Molina (Abate)
The Natural History of Chile [excerpt]
Table of Contents
The Suppression and Restoration of the Jesuits
Latin elegies
The geological perspectives of the Abate Juan Ignacio Molina on Italy and Chile between the 18th and 19th centuries
Great Chain of Being

Further Reading"Juan+Ignacio+Molina"
(Civil History)
(Geographic etc [preview])

Giovanni Agostino Panteo

Giovanni Agostino Panteo, known in Latin as Joannes Antonius Pantheus, was a Venetian priest and alchemist. Panteo wrote the Ars transmutationis metallicae (the art of transmutation of metals), spoke out against fake alchemy and separated alchemy from archime. Alchemy was concerned only with changing the surface of objects.

Panteo’s book has been credited as an important and very early contribution to atomism, the precursor to modern atomic theory.(1) Atomism is a theory which states that there are two fundamental principles, atoms and void (or NOT atoms). Atoms are indestructible because they cannot be divided any further and construct all macroscopic objects by combining with other atoms.(2)

Works Referenced

Ars Transmutationis Metallicae ... [with, as issued] Commentarium theoricae Artis Mettalicae Transmutationis.
  Giovanni Agostino Panteo
Pantheo, Giovanni Agostino active approximately 1517-1535
 Giovanni Agostino Panteo

Father Eugene Lafont

Father Eugene Lafont started the science front in India, with his amazing presentations on new inventions, and with assisting in the formation of the The Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science. He used his observatory to predict a cyclone and save many lives, as well as aiding in the investigation of the rare Transit of Venus.

Eugene Lafont was born in March of 1837, in a southern town in Belgium called “Mons”.(1) His early education was at St. Barbara’s College at Ghent, where his father an army officer was posted.(1) Here he joined the Society of Jesus in December of 1854. After the necessary training of the Order, and being a teacher during 1857-1859 and 1862-1863, he went to Namur College for studying Philosophy and Natural Sciences, where he showed an aptitude for physical examination.(1;2) in 1865 the previous minister of Namur College, Father Deplechin, requested for the services of Father Lafont for teaching physics in the new (made in 1860) St. Xavier’s College in Calcutta(Kolkata), India.(1)

Father Lafont’s first assignment was to teach the 5th year or Pre-entrance class of the school.(1) Because the school was just made it did not have equipment for practical experiments, he fixed this by installing a laboratory, probably the first one in India, and an observatory.(2;3) In 1867 the observatory was able to, with the daily meteorological observations, anticipate a devastating cyclone and prevent the loss of many lives.(2) In the same year when the BA class opened at St. Xavier’s Father Lafont was promoted to take charge of the Natural Philosophy division. He also taught Mental and Moral Philosophy, and when he became comfortable with English (1870) he began to give scientific lectures for the public.(2) He had a gift in popularizing scientific knowledge, and all of the new scientific discoveries and inventions of the second half of the 19th century were made known with an examples of the invention.(2)

In 1871 he became the Rector of St. Xavier’s.(1) Three years later a high level international scientific expedition came to Calcutta on its way to Midnapore, a town to the south-west of Calcutta, to observe a rare astronomical event, the transit of Venus.(1) The leader of the expedition was Pietro Tacchini, the other members were Jesuit Angelo Secchi director of the observatory of collegio Romano, Alessandro Dorna of the observatory of Turin, Antonio Abetti of the observatory of Padua.(1) At the insistence of Father Lamouroux, Italian consul of Calcutta, and Lafont (who had been consulted), they went to the region now called West Bengal.(1) Lafont was invited to join the expedition, and he went with Prof. Dorna and carried out visual observations.(1) The spectroscopic observations were carried out by Prof. Tacchini and Abetti.(1) Weather hindered the observations, but they were still able to obtain important results.

Tacchini realized that having an observatory in India would work well because it’s warm climate would mean that they could be observing the stars even in the winter, as observatories do not work then.(1)Tacchini convinced Lafont to make an observatory in India at St. Xavier’s, and when the creation of the spectroscopic observatory in Calcutta was announced, the observatory was given grants by the government, and from the people. In 1875 Lafont wrote to Tacchini saying that the observatory would be complete in 18 months.(1) The observatory was the biggest housed on an educational campus. (3)

The Indian Association for the Cultivation of Science was established in 1876 with financial aid from Mahendra Lal Sircar.(2) It’s purpose was “to enable the Natives of India to cultivate Science in all its departments with a view to its advancement by original research, and (as it will necessarily follow) with a view to its varied applications to the arts and comforts of life.”(1) It was proposed to create mass interest in science and for the training of scientists for original research. (1) It was working in this institution that C. V. Raman brought the Nobel Science Prize to India.(1) Father Lafont lent his support to this idea, and also helped the Association develop in many ways.(1) The provisional committee that drew up a plan for the association was chaired by Lafont, and when the university began Lafont and Dr Sircar were honorary lecturers in Physics, with Dr. Kanai Lal Dey being an honorary lecturer in  Chemistry.(1) Father Lafont gave on average 20-30 lectures a year, but his oratory skills were proverbial, with his lectures containing experimental demonstrations.(1)

Father Lafont was the teacher of the first modern scientist in India Jagadis Chandra Bose.(1) It was Father Lafont that inspired him in experimental science.(1) Bose thought very well of Father Lafont with his patient skill, and brilliance of experimentation, and Lafont thought likewise of Bose calling him “one of the best students we had in our College Department.”(1) Father Lafont believed that Bose had priority over Marconi in inventing the wireless telegraph, asking for his assistance in his presentation on the his public lecture “Telegraphy Without Wires”(1)

He continued to give regular lectures until 1893, when he continued to give popular science lectures at the association, but less often, but he still he participated in the annual meetings.(1) His last lectures was in 1903, and on the 30th annual general body meeting he supported the idea that the Association should move away from teaching, and concentrate original research.(1)

Works Cited
Lafont Father Eugene
Eugène Lafont
150-year-old St Xavier's College's observatory restored 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Eugenio Barsanti

Italy (1821-1864)
Priest, Physicist, and Mathematician.

Eugenio Barsanti was born in 1821. After he’d gotten old enough to talk, walk, and make decisions about his own education, he joined the convent of Sant’ Agostino in Pretsanta to study at the  convent’s  scientific school. He obtained “higher studies with excellent results in all subjects, … [particularly]... scientific subjects,” (1) and went on to be ordained a priest.  After his novitiate, Fr. Barsanti decided to attend San Giovannino college. At some point, he was even a Professor of physics in the college of S. Giovannino.

He also taught physics and mathematics in Volterra at the college of San Michele. There, Fr. Barsanti developed a way “to use the bursting of air and gas to produce a new driving force.” He did this using “a reproduction of Alessandro Volta’s gun” which he built himself. He then filled it with hydrogen and air, and hermetically sealed it using a cork cap and a brass bar. The electrologopneumatic gun burst the seal, sending it flying toward the ceiling. This was a classroom demonstration.

After some time in Volterra, Fr. Barsanti continued “his experiments in physics at the Ximeniano Observatory in Florence … where he … had the opportunity to meet Felice Matteucci.” Felice Matteucci was also from Lucca, Italy and was working on reclamation of the Bientina lake. Barsanti was a physicist, Matteucci an engineer, and they worked well together.

The two worked together on creating an internal combustion engine. “Research and experiments [began in 1851]... with a cast-iron cylinder with a piston and valves, through which they studied the effects of some explosive mixtures.” (2) Once Barsanti and Matteucci created a prototype, they decided to patent their invention. “They applied for authorship in England, at the time the leading European country in the field of trade and industry.” (2) They also filed patents in 1853 in  France, Germany, and Italy.In 1854, they got their patent from England. They finished building the engine in 1860.  They also set up a company around the invention, an engine which featured a two-cylinder engine, twenty horsepower.  However, while the invention was brilliant in scientific terms and useful in economic ones (the force of a steam engine cost 12 cents, while their invention produced a force at 2 cents)(2), non-Italian countries initially stuck with a later, similar invention created by Etienne Lenoir and patented in 1859. In fact, for several decades no one discussed Barsanti and Matteucci’s invention at all, instead beginning the history of internal combustion engines with Lenoir’s invention.  (3)

Nonetheless, Matteucci and Fr. Barsanti continued their collaboration and created new prototypes of their engine. Then, in 1864, John Cockeril’s mining company in Belgium “decided to use [Father] Barsanti’s engine for a first series production, [as the new prototype was] much more efficient than Lenoir’s engine.” (1)

Fr. Barsanti’s life was filled with study, physical experimentation, and ecclesiastical duty.  He died at age 43, 1864 of typhoid fever, shortly before he was intended to participate “in the start of series construction of his engine” (1)

Works Referenced