Ulisse Aldrovandi

Ulisse Aldrovandi was GardenDoc, NaturalistDoc, OrnithologyDoc, WriterDoc and more

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Ulisse Aldrovandi (11 September 1522 – 4 May 1605) was an Italian naturalist, the moving force behind Bologna’s botanical garden, one of the first in Europe. Carl Linnaeus and the comte de Buffon reckoned him the father of natural history studies. He is usually referred to, especially in older literature, as Aldrovandus; his name in Italian is equally given as Aldroandi.[1]

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He obtained a degree in medicine and philosophy in 1553 and started teaching logic and philosophy in 1554 at the University of Bologna. In 1559 he became professor of philosophy and in 1561 he became the first professor of natural sciences at Bologna (lectura philosophiae naturalis ordinaria de fossilibus, plantis et animalibus).

Natural history work

 From Ornithologiae, 1599

In the course of his life he would assemble one of the most spectacular cabinets of curiosities, his “theatre” illuminating natural history comprising some 7000 specimens of the diversità di cose naturali, of which he wrote a description in 1595. Between 1551 and 1554 he organised several expeditions to collect plants for a herbarium, among the first botanizing expeditions. Eventually his herbarium contained about 4760 dried specimens on 4117 sheets in sixteen volumes, preserved at the University of Bologna. He also had various artists, including Jacopo Ligozzi, Giovanni Neri, and Cornelio Schwindt, make illustrations of specimens.

AldrovandiUlisse-Chicken

Botanic garden

At his demand and under his direction a public botanic garden was created in Bologna in 1568, now the Orto Botanico dell’Università di Bologna.[3] Due to a dispute on the composition of a popular medicine with the pharmacists and doctors of Bologna in 1575 he was suspended from all public position for five years. In 1577 he sought the aid of pope Gregory XIII (a cousin of his mother) who wrote to the authorities of Bologna to reinstate Aldrovandi in his public offices and request financial aid to help him publish his books.

Collections

His vast collections in botany and zoology he willed to the Senate of Bologna; until 1742 the collections were conserved in the Palazzo Pubblico, then in the Palazzo Poggi, but were distributed among various libraries and institutions in the course of the nineteenth century. In 1907 a representative part were reunited at Palazzo Poggi, Bologna, where the 400th anniversary of his death was memorialized in a celebrative exhibition in 2005.

Honors

 

  • The wrinkle ridge Dorsa Aldrovandi on the Moon is named after him.
  • The Civico Orto Botanico “Ulisse Aldrovandi” in San Giovanni in Persiceto is named in his honor.
  • The plant genus Aldrovanda is named after him.

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