Open main menu

Wikispecies β

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

Giant Amazonian Water Lily

Victoria amazonica

Victoria amazonica

Some facts on this lily:

Leaf diameter: Up to 3 m.

Range: Amazon River basin, Brasil.

First described: By the German botanist, zoologist and explorer Eduard Friedrich Poeppig in 1836, who originally named it Euryale amazonica.

Can you imagine a single plant-leaf that can support a weight of 60 kg.? A leaf of Victoria amazonica easily can. This plant has huge floating circular leaves with upturned rims which are anchored to the river bottom by long stalks arising from an underground mud-buried stem. The leaves start their growth as spiny heads but expand rapidly up to half a square meter per day. The purplish red under-surface has a network of ribs clad in abundant sharp thorns to defend against herbivorous fishes and manatees. Air trapped in the spaces between the ribs gives the leaves their tremendous buoyancy. In a single season, each plant produces between 40 and 50 leaves, which cover the water surface and prevent light from reaching down, thus restricting the growth of most other plants and algae. Flowers bloom during only two days and change color when pollinated from white to a pinky purple in a symphony of colors. Victoria amazonica was first named Victoria regia after Queen Victoria of England and later on changed to Amazonica to reflect its Amazonia origin.

See also: Species of previous months

Read in another language