Nature in the City

Roman Scientists and the Wonders of Creation

Renaissance Rome saw two great efforts to reform the study of plants, as well as that of minerals, insects, and other entities low on the scale of being. In the fifteenth century the systematic treatment of plants by Aristotle's pupil Theophrastus was translated into Latin by Theodore of Gaza, giving the whole field a new and systematic foundation. In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, both the curia and other Roman institutions--like the Jesuits' Collegio Romano and the scientific society Accademia dei Lincei--became centers for the collection, observation, and investigation of every kind of natural curiosity. Roman "virtuosi" were just as curious--and just as insistent upon the importance of apparently insignificant things and creatures--as the more famous fellows of London's Royal Society. (John Evelyn, later a fellow, had a wonderful time examining the fossils and other curiosa that Roman colleagues had to show him.)

Go back to the main hall or have another look at the entrance of the nature room.