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...