The Virtues of Observational Practice

The Virtues of Observational Practice in Italian Scientific Culture, ca. 1660–1700

Marco Bresadola

During the second half of the seventeenth century observation was often portrayed as a diligent, patient, and dispassionate investigation into natural particulars. This project analyzed the meaning and use of these terms in the practice and discourse of Italian life-sciences, focusing on Marcello Malpighi’s work in microscopic anatomy and the debates he was involved in. What was the relationship between epistemology and morals in the early history of scientific observation, as it was performed and discussed by the historical actors? To explore this question the project develops recent scholarly work on the “passions of inquiry” (e.g., curiosity and wonder) and on scientific “personae” in early modern history.