Lazzaro Spallanzani

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Lazzaro Spallanzani


Lazzaro Spallanzani
Born10 January 1729 (1729-01-10)
Died12 February 1799 (1799-02-13) (aged 70)
Nationality Italian
Known for Interpreting digestion, saying that it is a process of chemical solution, and helping disprove the concept of spontaneous generation.
Scientific career
Fields Biology

Lazzaro Spallanzani (Italian pronunciation:  [ˈladdzaro spallanˈtsaːni] ; 10 January 1729 – 12 February 1799) was an Italian Catholic priest, biologist and physiologist who made important contributions to the experimental study of bodily functions, animal reproduction, and animal echolocation. His research of biogenesis paved the way for the downfall of preformationism theory (the idea that organisms develop from miniature versions of themselves), though the final death blow to preformationism was dealt by Pasteur.

Biologist scientist studying living organisms

A biologist is a scientist who has specialized knowledge in the field of biology, the scientific study of life. Biologists involved in fundamental research attempt to explore and further explain the underlying mechanisms that govern the functioning of living matter. Biologists involved in applied research attempt to develop or improve more specific processes and understanding, in fields such as medicine and industry.

Animal echolocation method used by some animals to determine the location of something by measuring the time it takes for an echo to return from it

Echolocation, also called bio sonar, is the biological sonar used by several species of animal. Echolocating animals emit calls out to the environment and listen to the echoes of those calls that return from various objects near them. They use these echoes to locate and identify the objects. Echolocation is used for navigation and for foraging in various environments.

Biogenesis is the production of new living organisms or organelles. Conceptually, biogenesis is primarily attributed to Louis Pasteur and encompasses the belief that complex living things come only from other living things, by means of reproduction. That is, life does not spontaneously arise from non-living material, which was the position held by spontaneous generation. This is summarized in the phrase Omne vivum ex vivo, Latin for "all life [is] from life." A related statement is Omnis cellula e cellula, "all cells [are] from cells;" this conclusion is one of the central statements of cell theory.



Spallanzani was born in Scandiano in the modern province of Reggio Emilia and died in Pavia, Italy. He was educated at the Jesuit College and started to study law at the University of Bologna, which he gave up soon and turned to science. Here, his famous kinswoman, Laura Bassi, was professor of physics and it is to her influence that his scientific impulse has been usually attributed. With her he studied natural philosophy and mathematics, and gave also great attention to languages, both ancient and modern, but soon abandoned them.

Scandiano Comune in Emilia-Romagna, Italy

Scandiano is a town and comune in Emilia-Romagna, in the northeast part of the country of Italy, near the city of Reggio nell'Emilia and the Secchia river. It had a population of 25,663 as of 31 December 2016.

Province of Reggio Emilia Province of Italy

The Province of Reggio Emilia is one of the nine provinces of the Italian Region of Emilia-Romagna. The capital city, which is the most densely populated comune in the province, is Reggio Emilia.

Pavia Comune in Lombardy, Italy

Pavia is a town and comune of south-western Lombardy, northern Italy, 35 kilometres south of Milan on the lower Ticino river near its confluence with the Po. It has a population of c. 73,000. The city was the capital of the Kingdom of the Lombards from 572 to 774.

In 1754, at the age of 25, he became professor of logic, metaphysics and Greek in the University of Reggio. In 1762 he was ordained as a priest, 1763 he was moved to Modena, [1] where he continued to teach with great assiduity and success, but devoted his whole leisure to natural science. He declined many offers from other Italian universities and from St Petersburg until 1768, when he accepted the invitation of Maria Theresa to the chair of natural history in the University of Pavia, which was then being reorganized. He also became director of the museum, which he greatly enriched by the collections of his many journeys along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. In June 1768 Spallanzani was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society and in 1775 was elected a foreign member of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. [2]

Logic the systematic study of the form of arguments

Logic is the systematic study of the form of valid inference, and the most general laws of truth. A valid inference is one where there is a specific relation of logical support between the assumptions of the inference and its conclusion. In ordinary discourse, inferences may be signified by words such as therefore, hence, ergo, and so on.

Metaphysics Branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of reality

Metaphysics is the branch of philosophy that examines the fundamental nature of reality, including the relationship between mind and matter, between substance and attribute, and between possibility and actuality. The word "metaphysics" comes from two Greek words that, together, literally mean "after or behind or among [the study of] the natural". It has been suggested that the term might have been coined by a first century CE editor who assembled various small selections of Aristotle’s works into the treatise we now know by the name Metaphysics.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

In 1785 he was invited to Padua University, but to retain his services his sovereign doubled his salary and allowed him leave of absence for a visit to Turkey where he remained nearly a year and made many observations, among which may be noted those of a copper mine in Chalki and of an iron mine at Principi. His return home was almost a triumphal progress: at Vienna he was cordially received by Joseph II and on reaching Pavia he was met with acclamations outside the city gates by the students of the university. During the following year his students exceeded five hundred. While he was travelling in the Balkans and to Constantinople, His integrity in the management of the museum was called in question (he was accused of the theft of specimens from the University's collection to add to his own cabinet of curiosities), with letters written across Europe to damage Spallanzani's reputation. A judicial investigation speedily cleared his honour to the satisfaction of some of his accusers. But Spallanzani got his revenge on his principal accuser, a jealous colleague, by planting a fake specimen of a composite "species". When his colleague published the remarkable specimen Spallanzani revealed the joke, resulting in wide ridicule and humiliation.

University of Padua university in Italy

The University of Padua is a premier Italian university located in the city of Padua, Italy. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a school of law and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. Padua is the second-oldest university in Italy and the world's fifth-oldest surviving university. In 2010 the university had approximately 65,000 students, in 2016 was ranked "best university" among Italian institutions of higher education with more than 40,000 students, and in 2018 best Italian university according to ARWU ranking.

Turkey Republic in Western Asia

Turkey, officially the Republic of Turkey, is a transcontinental country located mainly in Western Asia, with a smaller portion on the Balkan Peninsula in Southeast Europe. East Thrace, located in Europe, is separated from Anatolia by the Sea of Marmara, the Bosphorous strait and the Dardanelles. Turkey is bordered by Greece and Bulgaria to its northwest; Georgia to its northeast; Armenia, the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan and Iran to the east; and Iraq and Syria to the south. Istanbul is the largest city, but more central Ankara is the capital. Approximately 70 to 80 per cent of the country's citizens identify as Turkish. Kurds are the largest minority; the size of the Kurdish population is a subject of dispute with estimates placing the figure at anywhere from 12 to 25 per cent of the population.

Heybeliada island in Turkey

Heybeliada or Heybeli Ada is the second largest of the Prince Islands in the Sea of Marmara, near Istanbul. It is officially a neighborhood in the Adalar district of Istanbul, Turkey.

In 1788 he visited Vesuvius and the volcanoes of the Lipari Islands and Sicily, and embodied the results of his researches in a large work (Viaggi alle due Sicilie ed in alcune parti dell'Appennino), published four years later.

Sicily Island in the Mediterranean and region of Italy

Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy. It is one of the five Italian autonomous regions, in Southern Italy along with surrounding minor islands, officially referred to as Regione Siciliana.

He died from bladder cancer on 12 February 1799, in Pavia. After his death, his bladder was removed for study by his colleagues, after which it was placed on public display in a museum in Pavia, where it remains to this day.

His indefatigable exertions as a traveller, his skill and good fortune as a collector, his brilliance as a teacher and expositor, and his keenness as a controversialist no doubt aid largely in accounting for Spallanzani's exceptional fame among his contemporaries; his letters account for his close relationships with many famed scholars and philosophers, like Buffon, Lavoisier, and Voltaire. Yet greater qualities were by no means lacking. His life was one of incessant eager questioning of nature on all sides, and his many and varied works all bear the stamp of a fresh and original genius, capable of stating and solving problems in all departments of science—at one time finding the true explanation of stone skipping (formerly attributed to the elasticity of water) and at another helping to lay the foundations of our modern volcanology and meteorology.

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon French natural historian

Georges-Louis Leclerc, Comte de Buffon was a French naturalist, mathematician, cosmologist, and encyclopédiste.

Voltaire French writer, historian, and philosopher

François-Marie Arouet, known by his nom de plumeVoltaire, was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit, his criticism of Christianity, especially the Roman Catholic Church, and his advocacy of freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and separation of church and state.

Stone skipping game of skill

Stone skipping is the art of throwing a flat stone across water in such a way that it bounces off the surface, preferably many times. The objective of the game is to see how many times a stone can bounce before sinking.


The statue to Spallanzani in Scandiano has him examining a frog through a magnifying glass. Monumento a Lazzaro Spallanzani.jpg
The statue to Spallanzani in Scandiano has him examining a frog through a magnifying glass.
Plaque dedicated to Spallanzani in Portovenere, Italy Spallata Capata.JPG
Plaque dedicated to Spallanzani in Portovenere, Italy

Spallanzani researched in 1768 the theory of the spontaneous generation of microbes. At the time, the microscope was already available to researchers, and using it, the proponents of the theory, Buffon and Needham, came to the conclusion that there is a life-generating force inherent to certain kinds of inorganic matter that causes living microbes to create themselves if given sufficient time. [3] Spallanzani's experiment showed that it is not an inherent feature of matter, and that it can be destroyed by an hour of boiling. [3] As the microbes did not re-appear as long as the material was hermetically sealed, [3] he proposed that microbes move through the air and that they could be killed through boiling. Needham argued that experiments destroyed the "vegetative force" that was required for spontaneous generation to occur. [3] Spallanzani paved the way for research by Louis Pasteur, who defeated the theory of spontaneous generation almost a century later. [3]

Spallanzani discovered and described animal (mammal) reproduction, showing that it requires both semen and an ovum. He was the first to perform in vitro fertilization, with frogs, and an artificial insemination, using a dog. Spallanzani showed that some animals, especially newts, can regenerate some parts of their body if injured or surgically removed. Spallanzani is also credited with the classification of tardigrades, which are one of the most durable extremophiles still to this day. (See Binomial Nomenclature)

Spallanzani is also famous for extensive experiments on the navigation in complete darkness by bats, where he concluded that bats do not use their eyes for navigation in total darkness, but some other sense (see animal echolocation). [4] [5] He was the pioneer of the original study of echolocation, though his study was limited to what he could observe. Later scientists moved onto studies of the sensory mechanisms and processing of this information.

His great work, however is the Dissertationi di fisica animale e vegetale (2 vols, 1780). Here he first interpreted the process of digestion, which he proved to be no mere mechanical process of trituration – that is, of grinding up the food – but one of actual chemical solution, taking place primarily in the stomach, by the action of the gastric juice. He also carried out important researches on fertilization in animals (1780).

Spallanzani and the fossils

Spallanzani studied the formation and origin of marine fossils found in distant regions of the sea and over the ridge mountains in some regions of Europe, which resulted in the publication in 1755 of a small dissertation, "Dissertazione sopra i corpi marino-montani then presented at the meeting the Accademia degli Ipocondriaci di Reggio Emilia". Although aligned to one of the trends of his time, which attributed the occurrence of marine fossils on mountains to the natural movement of the sea, not the universal flood, Spallanzani developed his own hypothesis, based on the dynamics of the forces that changed the state of the Earth after God's creation. [6]

A few years later published reports about trips he made to Portovenere, Cerigo island and Two Sicilies, addressing important issues such as the discovery of fossil shells within volcanic rocks, the human fossils, and the existence of fossils of extinct species. His concern with fossil witness how, in the style of the eighteenth century, Spallanzani integrated studies of the three kingdoms of nature. [7] 5

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  1. "Spallanzani – Uomo e scienziato" (in Italian). Il museo di Lazzaro Spallanzani. Archived from the original on 3 June 2010. Retrieved 7 June 2010.
  2. "Library and Archive Catalogue". Royal Society. Retrieved 20 October 2010.[ permanent dead link ]
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Vallery-Radot, René (1 March 2003). Life of Pasteur 1928. p. 91. ISBN   9780766143524.
  4. Spallanzani concluded that in order to hunt at night, bats didn't rely on their eyes, but on some other sense; however, due to the experimental methods and the species of bat that he used, he didn't conclude that that other sense was hearing. See:
    • Spallanzani, Lazzaro, Lettere sopra il sospetto di un nuovo senso nei pipistrelli (Letters on the suspicion of a new sense in bats), (Torino (Turin), (Italy): Stamperia Reale (Royal Press), 1794). [in Italian]
    • Dijkgraaf, Sven (March 1960) "Spallanzani's unpublished experiments on the sensory basis of object perception in bats," Isis, 51 (1) : 9–20.
    However, a contemporary of Spallanzani, the Swiss physician and naturalist Louis Jurine, learned of Spallanzani's experiments, repeated them using different species of bats, and concluded that when bats hunt at night, they rely on hearing.
    • Peschier (1798) "Extraits des expériences de Jurine sur les chauve-souris qu'on a privé de la vue" (Extracts of Jurine's experiments on bats that have been deprived of sight), Journal de physique, de chimie, d'histoire naturelle … , 46 : 145–148. [in French]
    • English translation: (Peschier) (1798) "Experiments on bats deprived of sight," Philosophical Magazine, 1 : 136–140. From p. 140: "From these experiments the author concludes: … that the organ of hearing appears to supply that of sight in the discovery of bodies, and to furnish these animals with different sensations to direct their flight, and enable them to avoid those obstacles which may present themselves."
  5. Stuart, Dee (1994). Bats: Mysterious Flyers of the Night (illustrated ed.). Lerner Publications. p. 18. ISBN   978-0-87614-814-3. Extract of page 18
  6. SPALLANZANI, Lazzaro. Regno lapideo. In: Spallanzani, Lazzaro. Edizione nazionale delle opere di Lazzaro Spallanzani. Parte seconda: Lezione. Ed., Pericle di Pietro. Modena: Mucchi. v.1, p.233-318. 1788–1789 (1994)
  7. PRESTES& FARIA. 2011 – Spallanzani & Fossils.Manguinhos, 18(4), p.1005-1020
Dissertazioni di fisica animale e vegetabile, 1780 Spallanzani - Dissertazioni di fisica animale e vegetabile, 1780 - 4275441.tif
Dissertazioni di fisica animale e vegetabile, 1780


Work on insects