Francesco Redi (Arezzo, February 18, 1626 – Pisa, March 1, 1697) was an Italian physician, naturalist, and poet.
The son of Gregorio Redi and Cecilia de Ghinci was born in Arezzo on February 18, 1626. After schooling with the Jesuits, he attended the University of Pisa. As a doctor, he became court physician to Ferdinando II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany and his successor, Cosimo III. His research gained him membership in Accademia dei Lincei. He died in his sleep on March 1, 1697, and his remains were returned to Arezzo for interment.
He is most well-known for his series of experiments, published in 1668 as Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione degl'Insetti (Experiments on the Generation of Insects) which is regarded as one of the first steps in refuting "spontaneous generation" - a theory also known as Aristotelian abiogenesis. At the time, prevailing wisdom was that maggots formed naturally from rotting meat.
In one experiment, Redi took six jars, which he divided in two groups of three: in the first jar of each group, he put an unknown object; in the second, a dead fish; in the last, a raw chunk of veal. Redi took the first group of three, and covered the tops with fine gauze so that only air could get into it. He left the other group of jars open. After several days, he saw maggots appear on the objects in the open jars, on which flies had been able to land, but not in the gauze-covered jars.
He continued his experiments by capturing the maggots and waiting for them to metamorphose, which they did, becoming flies. Also, when dead flies or maggots were put in sealed jars with dead animals or veal, no maggots appeared, but when the same thing was done with living flies, maggots did.
Achievements outside science
As a poet, Redi's best known work is the dithyramb, "Bacco in Toscana" ("Bacchus in Tuscany"). He was admitted to two literary societies: Academy of Arcadia and Accademia della Crusca.
A crater on Mars was named in his honor.
Full article ▸