Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Touching the body of the animal: Studying animals in early modern Florence, 1650-1700
by Petrozzi, Massimo, Ph.D., The Johns Hopkins University, 2010, 279; 3440756
Abstract (Summary)

In "Touching the Body of the Animal," I examine the development of a distinct culture of observing and studying animals in seventeenth-century Florence. Since the Medici's return to power in 1537, the illustrious family supported an intense program of study of nature as tool to increase the political prestige of the court in Europe. Focusing on the activity of Francesco Redi, the most prominent naturalist at the Medici court, and his circle of natural philosophers, my dissertation explores the different natures of touching involved in the manipulation of animal bodies in the process of producing reliable knowledge. The 1628 publication of William Harvey's De motu cordis revolutionized the agenda of physiological research, redefining the concept of life and developing new experimental techniques. Putting at the center of my investigation the body of the animal and the way in which natural philosophers engaged it, I show that terms such as 'animal dissection' and 'animal vivisection' cannot describe all the experimental practices used to study physiological functions. Indeed, natural philosophers' hands were involved in a wide range of different kinds of touch. The animal body could be not only cut up, inspected, and stuffed, but also fed, cared for, and protected. These different ways to interact with animals created an intimate relationship with the subjects of the experiments that had an important role in the production of knowledge.

Recently, historians reframed the account of what is commonly called 'Scientific Revolution' by focusing on the concept of practices. The story of the Scientific Revolution is no longer a story of theoretical changes and extraordinary individuals. Instead it becomes a story about new attitudes to the material world and material things. My dissertation intervenes in this historiographical debate mapping out the social and cultural origins of the different manipulations of animal bodies. This study investigates the way in which the Medici court shaped natural philosophers' interactions with animals. In underscoring the fact that natural philosophers were also hunters and pet owners, I provide a richer picture of the practices involved in the study of animals.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Fissell, Mary E.
School: The Johns Hopkins University
School Location: United States -- Maryland
Source: DAI-B 72/03, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Animal sciences, Medicine
Keywords: Animal experimentation, Florence, History of medicine, Scientific revolution
Publication Number: 3440756
ISBN: 9781124426648
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