Scopoli, Giovanni Antonio (1723-1788) Joannis Antonii Scopoli Flora Carniolica : exhibens plantas Carniolae indigenas et distributas in classes naturales cum differentiis specificis,

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SCOPOLI, Giovanni Antonio (1723-1788)

Joannis Antonii Scopoli ... Flora Carniolica : exhibens plantas

Carniolae indigenas et distributas in classes naturales cum differentiis

specificis, synonymis recentiorum, locis natalibus, nominibus incolarum,

observationibus selectis, viribus medicis. - Viennae : sumptibus Joannis

Thomae Trattner ..., 1760. - [22], 607 p. ; 8° (21 cm)

Giovanni Antonio Scopoli was a renowned natural scientist and physician of his time, who was respected by the most famous natural scientist of the 18th century, Carl Linné, who corresponded with him. He was born in the Italian town of Cavalese and studied medicine in Innsbruck, where he obtained his doctoral degree in 1743. During his studies in Innsbruck, he was also interested in botany and made regular excursions in the mountains of Tyrol. He continued his studies in Vienna and presented his attempt at a plant system in his doctoral dissertation. After first serving in several areas of Italy, he accepted the position of physician at the Mercury Mine of Idrija. While in Idrija, he scientifically studied the Carniolan flora and fauna, collecting material for his principal works. He always combined his work as a natural scientist with that of a physician – he studied the health and social conditions of the miners, described the mine and several minerals.

He later became a mining counsellor in Slovakia, where he lectured at the Mining Academy; he concluded his scientific career as a professor of chemistry and botany at the university of Pavia in Italy.

Scopoli’s bibliography includes 9 independent works and 53 treatises in professional journals. His writings deal with a wide range of natural sciences: he published papers on botany, zoology, chemistry, mineralogy, metallurgy, medicine, veterinary medicine, and economy.

Scopoli’s activities as a natural scientist reached one their peaks precisely at the time when he served in Idrija. He is held to be the first modern researcher of the nature in the area. He published his work Flora Carniolica in Vienna in 1760. In this work he did not use Linné’s classification system nor his rules for naming plants. The book treats 756 seed plants and 256 non-seed plants. For the special supplement to the book Scopoli commissioned 56 oil paintings of fungi and lichens. These paintings are today in the museums of natural sciences of Paris and Vienna.

The second edition of Flora Carniolica was again published in Vienna, in 1772, and in two volumes. The edition has 66 full-page illustrations with 87 plants depicted; it describes a total of 1635 plants species, 1252 seed plants and 384 non-seed plants. 141 of the plants described by Scopoli were unknown even to Linné. For many plant species detailed data are provided on their habitats.

Scopoli described several new plant genera in both editions. Five new seed plants in the first edition, and no less than 47 in the second edition. 23 of these species now have a recognized taxonomic place and name, others had their name changed later, in line with new findings. In his editions of Flora, Scopoli himself changed the taxonomic place and name of many plants known before his time. In the first edition he mentions also the Slovene, domestic names of plants in the description, and in accordance with his position as a physician, he added notes on the healing properties of many plants. He however left out these data in the second edition.

Scopoli was the first to describe several fungi, lichens, and other plants from the Idrija mine and is therefore considered to be one of the first cave biologists. Similarly to his work in botany, he published Entomologia carniolica, a list of insects in Carniola, based on the same principles as Flora, in 1763. This list is considered to be the first local register of a part of the fauna in the then Austria.

Several plant and insect species, which he was the first to describe scientifically, are named after Scopoli, and so is the alkaloid scopolamin.

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