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The two Antonio Vallisneri, senior and junior

Antonio Vallisneri Senior (Tressilico, 3.5.1661 – Padua, 18.1.1730) studied medicine under the guidance of Marcello Malpighi in Bologna. He then graduated from the Medical College of Reggio Emilia and he began his practice after an apprenticeship in Padua, Venice and Parma. As well as developing his medical practice, he devoted himself passionately to entomological research following the experimentalist lesson of Francesco Redi and Malpighi. The first result of these interests were the Dialogues on the curious origin of several insects (1696), which earned him such fame that in 1700 he obtained the chair of practical medicine in Padua, while continuing to devote himself to naturalistic studies.

Having obtained the first chair of theoretical medicine in 1711, he began an intense scientific production, which dealt with several medical and naturalistic topics and issues, with an anti-dogmatic perspective based on the principle of substantial uniformity of natural laws. The contagium vivum theory represents one of his many theories: it explains the epizootic spread in the Venetian countryside at that time and it interprets the presence of marine fossils on the mountains as evidence of ancient geological transformations.

After his father’s death in 1730, for four years Antonio Vallisneri Junior (Padua, 5.6.1708 – 12.1.1777) devoted himself exclusively to collecting his writings, which appeared with the title of “Opere fisico-mediche stampate e manoscritte del kavalier Antonio Vallisneri raccolte da Antonio suo figliolo” (Printed physio-medical works and manuscripts of Antonio Vallisneri Cavalier collected by his son Antonio). The opportunity to link his name with his father’s work was recommended to Vallisneri Junior by a family friend, the illustrious doctor Giovanni Battista Morgagni, who also suggested that he plead with the Padua University Reformers for a suitable placement for his father’s collections, pointing out that they should have been adequately illustrated by a professor. Vallisneri then donated to the University both his father’s library and his museum, which included a vast wealth of naturalistic, archaeological and artistic collections. To look after the collections, the Reformers established the chair Ad descriptionem et ostensionem caeterorum simplicium (from 1759 Ad naturalem historiam), which Antonio Vallisneri held for more than 40 years, until his death. Between 1735 and 1736 the collections were set up in the university premises at Palazzo Bo, where they were used for teaching students. It can be assumed that the spaces occupied by the Vallisner Museum correspond to the premises that today, after repeated modifications to the original building, are occupied by the Science Room.