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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 and 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


Cicer arietinum

Cicer arietinum

Some facts on this legume:

Height: Between 20 and 60 cm.

Flowers: White with blue, violet or pink veins.

Peas: Yellow-brown; borne one or two per pod.

Types: Desi, which has small, dark seeds with a rough coat and Kabuli, which has lighter colored, larger seeds with a smoother coat.

World annual production: 9,000,000 tonnes.

First described: By the Swedish naturalist Linnaeus in 1753.

Take some seeds of Cicer arietinum, mash them to a paste and blend with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and garlic. Sounds tasty? It is the Middle Eastern dish "hummus". Chickpea seeds are nutritionally rich. They make an excellent source of high-quality protein combined with a wide range of essential amino acids. They also are high in dietary fiber and a rich source of carbohydrates, but are low in fat, providing dietary phosphorus, magnesium, iron and zinc. This plant is believed to be derived from the the wild species Cicer reticulatum. It probably reached the Mediterranean region by 4000 B.C. and India by 2000 B.C. In the 16th century it was brought to the New World by the Spanish and Portuguese. Today, India is the largest producer, and a considerable consumer. Several other countries in South Asia, the Middle East, the Mediterranean region, and elsewhere are also significant producers. The Chickpea belongs to the subfamily Faboideae, part of the large Fabaceae or "legume" family, which contains over 19,400 species.

See also: Species of previous months

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