European Commission logo
English English
CORDIS - EU research results

The Emergence of a Science of Vegetation in Early Modern Natural Philosophy and the Sciences of Life: From Cesalpino to Malpighi

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - VegSciLif (The Emergence of a Science of Vegetation in Early Modern Natural Philosophy and the Sciences of Life: From Cesalpino to Malpighi)

Reporting period: 2023-01-15 to 2024-01-14

In the 3 years of this Marie Sklodovska Curie project, the researcher has explored several aspects of the life of plants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He has worked on the changes from the Aristotelian framework in botanical studies to the mechanistic-chymical-nominalist framework, that is, to the early modern philosophical approach to nature. Accordingly, plants are a meaningful part of early modern science. The research has focused on the Aristotelian study of plants (especially in Cesalpino), on the medical analogy between plants and animals, as a way to understand plant anatomy, on the study of plants within a mechanical or chymical framework, and on the focus on monstrous plants and on the development of a philosophy of plants. During this project, the researcher has spent 2 years at Indiana University, Bloomington, with a secondment at Leiden University (where an early modern botanical garden was established) and one year at Ca' Foscari (with 2 secondments at Paris and Cambridge). The researcher has been working on plants in the medical and botanical contexts (Paris, Leiden, UK, and Italy - especially Padua, Bologna and Pisa), but he has especially focused on the natural philosophical framework scholars developed to encompass botanical studies and achieve a modern science of plants.

The overall objectives of my project are: showing the complexities of studying plants in pre-modern medicine (the issue of the animal-plant analogies), in pre-modern philosophy (the development of a philosophy of plants), and in pre-modern science (the development of a modern botany). The results of this research have been a number of articles published in journals and in volumes, and 2 monographs. In conclusion, the project has been fully achieved, especially by demonstrating the importance of plant studies in early modern natural philosophy, and of plant humanities in general.
During the first 2 years:
The researcher has organized 2 seminars (with 14 invited speakers) on the study of plants in the early modern times.
The researcher hasco-organized a workshop on Andrea Cesalpino, a major figure in my research project.
The researcher has organized 3 panels at general conferences (2 panels at HSS 2021, and 1 panel at HSS 2022). The researcher has attended several conferences, and have been invited at several institutions, where the researcher has discussed my research (20 presentations between 2021 and 2022).

In the thrid year, The researcher has organized 2 workshops with other MSCA fellows (one on philosopher Leibniz, and one on experimentation), and one workshop with my supervisor (on philosopher John Locke).The researcher has organized a panel at Scientiae Conference (on Marcello Malpighi).The researcher has also organized a 2-day major conference (Plants&Philosophy).
The researcher has presented my research in 10 occasions (seminars, workshops or conferences).

In the first 2 years:
Besides having discussed my research projects with colleagues from Indiana University, Iowa State University, Princeton University, Houston University, Leiden University, Bucharest University, University of Roma Tre, Salento University, and University of Bologna,the researcher has published 3 articles in journals: one on citrus, one on the vitalistic interpretation of plant life, and one on the mechanization of life in Descartes. The researcher has also published one chapter on the animal-plant analogy and one chapter on the corpuscular-mechanical study of plants in a Dutch scholar.

In the third year, The researcher has edited 3 volumes, one with De Gruyter on plants and medicine; the second with Bloomsbury on Cesalpino; the third on Descartes, for Brepols.
The researcher has published a monograph on Descartes's naturalistic studies. And a monograph on plants and philosophy and science in the 17th century (out in March 2024).
The researcher has also published 2 articles: one on the ascent of sap in plants, and one on Nehemiah Grew's anatomy and philosophy of plants.
With this research project, the researcher has disclosed how much the study of plants in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries differed from the traditional interpretation of vegetation. Plants surface as a crucial set of bodies to shed new light on the intepretation of life, beyond the traditional and orthodox restrictions of philosophical and scientific studies. He is now a leading scholar in plant humanities.
The researcher has outlined a more precise interpretation of plants in early modern natural philosophy, revealing the diverse works with vegetation (empirical observations of plant behaviour and the mechanical reduction of plant life). This helps understanding life in general.

In the end, the outcomes of this research project are expected to have a major impact in the field of plant humanities - history of science and history of philosophy - as plants would acquire a new centrality in history/philosophy and humanities in general.
Tartary lamb - monstrous plants that stand in between animals and plants