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Francesco Redi was an Italian scientist most famous for his experimental work that refuted the spontaneous generation theory. His experiment with meat in glass containers was one of the earliest controlled experiments.

Francesco Redi

Francesco Redi was an Italian scientist born in Arezzo on February 18, 1626. He completed degrees in medicine and philosophy from the University of Pisa. After graduating Redi moved to Florence to become the physician to the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

Redi was inspired by the work of William Harvey, who correctly described blood circulation around the body. It led him to develop his own experimental work. His most famous work was a paper entitled, Esperienze Intorno alla Generazione degl'Insetti (Experiments on the Generation of Insects) which he published in 1668. This work provided evidence against the spontaneous generation theory. The spontaneous generation theory, living things can form from non-living objects, had been put forward by Aristotle and had been widely accepted for millennia. People believed that maggots would just emerge from rotting meat. In the experiment Redi prepared three groups of jars, each with a pieces of meat inside them. One group of jars was covered with gauze, one group was left open, and one group was completely sealed.

In the group of jars that were left open, Redi found maggots on the meat. Redi noticed that in the jars that were completely sealed, there were no maggots. In the group of jars that were covered in gauze, he noticed that there were no maggots on the meat, but maggots did appear on top of the gauze. This experiment provided evidence which refuted the spontaneous generation theory. He showed that maggots came from eggs laid by flies. This experiment was important as it was one of the first controlled experiments in history. Modern day scientific experiments require controls to eliminate the impact of other variables on the results of the experiment.

Redi died on March 1, 1697 in Pisa.

Francesco Redi’s Significant Accomplishments

  • Use of controlled experiments
  • Disproving the spontaneous generation theory
  • Discovery that snake venom is not produced in the gallbladder

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