A Venetian doctor played a key role in shaping modern chemistry

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Brian Adam
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A Venetian doctor played a key role in shaping modern chemistry

The Italian scientist Santorio Santori, lived between 1561 and 1636, provided an explanation of the functioning of matter twenty years before Galileo. In notes written in his 1625 book “Commentaria in primam Fen early books Canonis Avicennae”, the scientist realized the composition made up of invisible “corpuscles” of matter.

The Greek philosopher Democritus and others after him they had already claimed the existence of such bodies, but historians previously believed that no one had found evidence of their existence before Galileo Galilei. The book, preserved in the British Library, was found by Fabrizio Bigotti, of the Center for Medical History of the University of Exeter. The language used and the style of calligraphy strongly suggest that the notes were handwritten by Santorio.

Santorio’s true contribution to chemistry has been forgotten but, I hope, this new discovery means that it will no longer be the case“, says Bigotti.”The notes show that the scientist did not see the world made of four elemental qualities – hot, cold, dry and humid – as Aristotle had suggested.“This contributed to initiate the process of eliminating the idea that magic and the occult can be found in nature. “Beyond his undoubted merits in science, Santorio also had very innovative ideas on chemistry“.

Santorio had correctly identified the minimal structure of matter as a series of corpuscles as early as 1603, e he had demonstrated his hypotheses through a series of optical experiments on light and distilling urine, using tools created ad hoc. The doctor laid the foundation for what is now understood as evidence-based medicine and the study of metabolism. The new discovery also shows that he was among the first scientists to suggest that the body aims to preserve its balance through the discharge of invisible particles.