Curiosity and ingenuity - Scientific Collections and Experimentation at Padova in the 18th Century
AntichitÓ e arte
Il corpo dell'uomo
Strumenti e macchine
Stones for ManMinerali e rocce Visita la collezione

Vallisneri collected, studied and used minerals.

The first attempt to recognise and classify minerals based on their objective features, i.e. their colour, habit and hardness, was made in the first half of the sixteenth century by George Bauer, known as Agricola. During the seventeenth century the classification based on what min-erals were used for or on their magical and thaumaturgic properties was abandoned and the study and classification of minerals on a chemical and physical basis began to take hold. This method was however not very popular among collectors and naturalists of the time, including Vallisneri who had subdivided his collection into "classes". These "classes" were not only meant to help him in his professional and didactic activities, as he was Professor of Practical Medicine at our University, but also served as documentation of the interest of scholars and of the debates which characterised the scientific atmosphere of the age.

Vallisneri's "classes" reflect themes such as the nature of the so-called figured stones; the origin of metalliferous minerals; the formation of sedimentary rocks; and the genesis of volcanoes, which became a common topic of discussion among scientists following the catastrophic eruption of Etna in 1669 which brought destruction and death to the city of Catania.

Vallisneri's interest in minerals and rocks is well documented in his collection catalogue, which is part of his Opere (Venice 1733). Unfortunately, however, only a few samples have reached us since much of the collection was dispersed after his death. In fact, the manuscript catalogue compiled by Tomaso Antonio Catullo, director of the Natural History Museum of the University of Padova from 1829 to 1851, testifies that many of the minerals from Vallisneri's collection were missing by 1830. This loss could be due either to the fact that some of Vallisneri's pieces were put in other museum collections or to a lack of precise documentation.

In order to bring the stone and mineral section of the Vallisneri Museum back to life in its most complete form, some of the samples exhibited have been added from other collections. They nonetheless represent the type of choices that Vallisneri made for his own collection as can be verified in his catalogue.

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