A Study In The Life And Accomplishments

Of Francesco Redi Essay, Research Paper

A Study of the Life and Accomplishments of Francesco Redi

Francesco Redi was born on February 19, 1626 in Arezzo, Italy. He died on

March 1, 1697 in Pisa, Italy. His father was Gregorio Redi a renowned Florentine

physician who worked at the Medici court. His mother’s name was Cecilia de’ Ghinci.

Redi was the eldest of nine brothers. He graduated in philosophy and medicine from the

University of Pisa on May 1st 1647. On April 26, 1648 he registered at the Collegio

Medico in Florence, and was the head physician and superintendent. He was also a

Member of the small Accademia del Cimento which was in activity from 1657-

1667. (World Book Deluxe)

Redi’s first discovery was when “Contrary to prevailing belief, Redi held that snake venom was completely unrelated to it’s bile. It was rather the yellow humor produced by ‘ two glands, which I have found in all vipers.’ The humor stagnates in the ‘two sheaths in which the viper bares it’s fangs and strikes, it is of necessity spurted on the wound.’” Redi discovered that sucking on the tissues that had been injected with the venom would not make anyone sick; with this discovery, Redi concluded that in order for the poison to be effective it had to enter the bloodstream directly. He also discovered that in snake-bite victims that “A tight ligature not far above the wound so the poison is not carried to the heart by the circular movement of the blood, and all the blood infected.” (Gillespie 341)

Redi was perhaps the first toxicologist; he performed countless experiments with the effects of the snakebite. He would, poison other animals with the venom taken from living, and dead snakes. He would sprinkle liquid or powdered venom on the wounds, or puncture the animal with a sharp piece of broomstick covered in the poison. He was trying to find out what mechanical reaction, killed the animal, however he was unsuccessful in his attempts to discover what killed them. (Gillespie 341)

Redi’s masterpiece is considered to be Esperienze Intorno Alla Generazione Degli Insetti (1668), in which he disproved the doctrine of spontaneous generation. “Even if decaying animals or plants appeared to ‘give birth to an infinity of worms (larvae),’ which in reality was quite different, he held. It must be assumed ‘that flesh and plants and other things whether putrefied or putrifiable ply no other part, or have any other function in the generation of insects, than to prepare a suitable place or nest into which, at the time of procreation the worms, or eggs, or other seed of worms are brought and hatched by the animals; and in this nest the worms, as soon as they are born, find sufficient food on which to nourish themselves excellently.’ These organic bodies ‘never become verminous if they are kept in a place where flies and gnats cannot enter.’ (Gillespie 341)

In the seventeenth century people believed that creatures such as mice were formed by abiogenesis, or spontaneously. For example, a seventeenth century recipe for the spontaneous production of mice required placing sweaty underwear and husks of wheat in an open-mouthed jar, then waiting for about 21 days, during which time it was alleged that the sweat from the underwear would penetrate the husks of wheat, changing them into mice. (accessexcellence.org) Redi proved this wrong in experiments by covering some jars that contained meat and cheese with a fine netting, and left others uncovered. He found that in the jars that were uncovered, flies and maggots appeared in a few days, while in the jars that were covered, eggs were laid on top, but no flies or maggots were found in the meat or cheese. “This method, which has remained the method of experimental biology ever since, consists in repeating the same experiments in different ways, modifying only one parameter at a time, and carrying out suitable tests.” (Galileo.html)

Some of the events occurring in the world at this time include, the

Inquisition forces Galileo to recant his belief in Copernican theory. (1633) The

Taj Mahal was completed. (1643) The end of Ming Dynasty in China. (1644) End

of the Thirty Years’ War. (1648) Great Plague in London kills 75,000. (1665)

Great Fire of London. (1666) Pennsylvania founded by William Penn. (1682)

William III of England defeats former king James II and Irish rebels at Battle of

the Boyne in Ireland. (1690) (Infoplease.com)

Francesco Redi stressed the importance of medicine based on Hippocratic

principles, and he emphasized the importance of prevention based on a balanced

diet and the use of exclusively natural remedies. (Galileo.html) He was also very

acquainted with his mother tongue, Italian, and knew many rare and obsolete

terms. His knowledge was a great help in his work. He also invented his own

version of the spectacles. (Gillespie 341)

Francesco’s body was brought to Arezzo and buried in the Church of San

Fancesco. At the beginning of the 19th century his body was moved to the

Cathedral, where only a bust now remains in the right wall. His religion and

philosophy was of the catholic faith, his religion helped him to devise the

experiments that he made in order to disprove spontaneous generation and

accredit the Bible. He gave many contributions to science and helped pave the

way for modern science work. Francesco Redi spent a lifetime correcting a myth

that otherwise, we might still believe today. His influences are still with us today,

because of him, we have a standard way of devising experiments, knowledge of

how to make tourniquets, and we also have a whole field of toxicology that helps

us today. Because of Francesco Redi, our knowledge and medicine are better off

today then they would have been had he not made his experiments.


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