Curiosity and ingenuity - Scientific Collections and Experimentation at Padova in the 18th Century
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Scientific Instruments at the Time of VallisneriStrumenti e macchine Visita la collezione

Scientific instruments can often be found among the variety of objects that made up seventeenth-century collections and Vallisneri too had some "tools, and mathematical instruments" in his collection.
It is important to remember that the seventeenth century was characterised by the invention of many new scientific instruments including telescopes, barometers, and microscopes.
The latter in particular not only revolutionised the world of Physics, but all the research in Natural Studies, from Botany to Medicine.
Along with the introduction of these new instruments which were brought forth by scientific progress, ancient instruments, such as sundials, continued to be produced.

Giovanni Poleni
Poleni was a mathematician, physicist and engineer. He carried out research in various scientific fields and his publications, which were highly esteemed in all of Europe, brought him prestigious academic recognition.
1683 Poleni is born in Venice on 23 August. He inherits the title Marquis of the Holy Roman Empire from his father; the title is confirmed in 1686 by the Venetian Republic. He studies philosophy, philology, theology and law in Venice but, guided by his father, he grows particularly interested in the study of military engineering and mathematics.
1708 The Venetian Senate assigns him to the chair of Astronomy and Meteorology at the University of Padova.
1715 He is called to the chair of Physics. The Venetian Senate has him study the problems of hydraulics in the region.
1719 He succeeds Nicola Bernoulli in the chair of Mathematics; this chair, before Bernoulli, had been held by Jakob Hermann and Galileo Galilei.
1725 He carries out systematic meteorological observations.
1738 The chair of Experimental Philosophy (today Experimental Physics) is created at the University of Padova and assigned to Poleni.
1739 He becomes one of the six foreign members of the Académie Royale des Sciences in Paris.
1740 He founds the Theatre of Experimental Philosophy, the first university laboratory of Experimental Physics in Italy.
1743 He is called upon by Pope Benedict xiv to save the dome of Saint Peter's Basilica which seems in danger of collapsing.
1756 He is called to the chair of Nautical Studies and Naval Construction.
1761 He dies in Padova on 15 November.

The Theatre of Experimental Philosophy
Lecture-demonstrations, i.e. Physics lessons illustrated with many experiments, were first carried out in England at the beginning of the eighteenth century. This type of lesson quickly spread all over Europe and chairs of Experimental Philosophy were established in many European universities. Furthermore, there was a significant increase in the number of complete and homogenous collections of scientific instruments, which no longer had anything in common with Renaissance curiosity collections and which made up the first and basic components of nineteenth-century laboratories.
The chair of Experimental Philosophy at the University of Padova was founded in 1738 and assigned to Giovanni Poleni, who approached his job with passion and set up the first university cabinet of Experimental Physics in Italy, the so-called Theatre of Experimental Philosophy which was inaugurated in 1740. Poleni continued to enrich the collection of instruments that constituted his Theatre until his death, in 1761. At the time, the number of instruments reached 400, only about 100 of which have come down to us.
Poleni's collection became famous all over Europe. The French astronomer Jérome de Lalande, for example, claimed to have never seen "a more beautiful Physics Laboratory" and the Parisian Academy of Sciences, among the many compliments it addressed to Poleni, accredited him with having placed the School of Physics in Padova "on the same level as the most famous of its kind" thanks to the precious collection of instruments.

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