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Distinguished author

Doctor Francesco Redi.jpg

Francesco Redi
1626–1697. Standard IPNI form: Redi

Francesco Redi was an Italian entomologist, parasitologist and toxicologist, sometimes referred to as the "founder of experimental biology" and the "father of modern parasitology". Having a doctoral degree in both medicine and philosophy from the University of Pisa at the age of 21, he worked in various cities of Italy.

Redi is best known for his series of experiments, published in 1668 as Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione degli Insetti ("Experiments on the Generation of Insects"), which is regarded as his masterpiece and a milestone in the history of modern science. The book is one of the first steps in refuting "spontaneous generation", a theory also known as "Aristotelian abiogenesis". At the time, prevailing theory was that maggots arose spontaneously from rotting meat, which Redi was able to disprove. In an experiment, He used samples of rotting meat that were either fully exposed to the air, partially exposed to the air, or not exposed to air at all. Redi showed that both fully and partially exposed rotting meat developed fly maggots, whereas rotting meat that was not exposed to air did not develop maggots. This discovery completely changed the way people viewed the decomposition of organisms and prompted further investigations into insect life cycles and into entomology in general. It is also an early example of forensic entomology.

In Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione degli Insetti Redi was the first to describe ectoparasites, such as lice (Phthiraptera), fleas (Siphonaptera), and some mites (Acari). His next treatise in 1684, titled Osservazioni intorno agli animali viventi che si trovano negli animali viventi ("Observations on Living Animals, that are in Living Animals") recorded the descriptions and the illustrations of more than 100 parasites. In it he also differentiates the earthworm (generally regarded as a helminth) and Ascaris lumbricoides, the human roundworm. An important innovation from the book is his experiments in chemotherapy in which he employed what is now called "scientific control", the basis of experimental design in modern biological research. Perhaps, his most significant observation was that parasites produce eggs and develop from them, which contradicted the prevailing opinion that they are produced spontaneously. Altogether he is known to have described some 180 species of parasites.

See also: Distinguished authors of previous months.


Species of the month

Royal Penguin

Eudyptes schlegeli

Eudyptes schlegeli

Some facts on this penguin:

Head and body length: 65-75 cm.

Weight: 4.4-6.1 kg during breeding season.

Diet: Krill, fish, and small amounts of squid.

Range: Endemic to Macquarie Island and Clerk and Bishop Islets in Australia.

Incubation period: 30-40 days.

Surviving number: Estimated at 1,700,000.

Conservation status: Vulnerable (IUCN 3.1)

First described: By the German ethnographer, naturalist and explorer Otto Finsch, in 1876.


If you're looking for an exemplary husband and wife, Eudyptes schlegeli will certainly satisfy you. These penguins divide the household chores equally between them: The female takes the first two-week shift incubating her eggs, then comes the male's turn. After the egg hatches, the male assumes guard duty while the female forages for food to bring back to their hungry chick. At about 20 days, the chick joins a crèche (a group of youngsters receiving communal care), freeing both parents to bring meals home. When it reaches some 70 days old, the chick will have fledged and can begin to fend for itself. It becomes sexually mature at one year. These birds often form large colonies of up to 500,000 individuals. The nests are usually placed a few hundred meters from the sea and the birds make access routes through the tussock grass. Historically, royal penguins were hunted for their oil and at the industry's peak in 1905, a plant established on Macquarie Island was processing 2000 penguins at a time. Before hunting started, 3 million penguins were living on the islands.

See also: Species of previous months


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