Vol. 6 No. 2 (2022)
Historical Articles

Just a Grand Duke who Loves Chemistry. Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine (1747–1792) and his Chemical Cabinet at the Imperial and Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History

Giovanni Pratesi
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Firenze, Firenze, Italy
Bio
Annarita Franza
Department of Earth Sciences, University of Firenze, Firenze, Italy
Bio

Published 2022-09-01

Keywords

  • Peter Leopold,
  • History of Chemistry,
  • Giovanni Fabbroni,
  • catalog,
  • museum

How to Cite

Pratesi, G., & Franza, A. (2022). Just a Grand Duke who Loves Chemistry. Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine (1747–1792) and his Chemical Cabinet at the Imperial and Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History. Substantia, 6(2), 93-106. https://doi.org/10.36253/Substantia-1600

Abstract

This article dealt with the history of the chemical cabinet established by the Grand Duke of Tuscany, Peter Leopold of Habsburg-Lorraine (1747–1792), at the Imperial and Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History in Firenze during his regency. To achieve this goal, it investigated untapped archival sources (e.g., administrative and commercial documents, minutes, correspondences, inventories) concerning the museum management from its foundation in 1775 to the departure of the Grand Duke for Vienna to be crowned as Holy Roman Emperor Leopold II in 1790. The article analyzed the chemical cabinet’s manuscript catalog, whose entire transcription is presented in the Supplementary Information Files. The work then examined the connections between the activities performed at the chemical laboratory and Peter Leopold’s interests in experimental chemistry. Concerning this research question, the scientific relationship he held with the naturalist Giovanni Valentino Mattia Fabbroni (1752–1822) – Vice-director and then Director of the Imperial and Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History – who helped the Grand Duke navigate all aspects of his interests in chemistry and natural sciences, was also discussed.

References

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  8. As an example of Peter Leopold’s judicial reforms, it is worth mentioning that the Grand Duchy of Tuscany was the first country to abolish torture and the death penalty on 30 November 1786. More details on this topic can be found in: L. Berlinguer, F. Colao, La leopoldina nel diritto e nella giustizia in Toscana, Giuffré, Milano, 1989; D. Edigati, Prima della Leopoldina: la giustizia criminale toscana tra prassi e riforme legislative nel XVIII secolo, Jovene, Napoli, 2011; C.E. Tavilla in Il diritto come forza, la forza del diritto. Le fonti in azione nel diritto europeo tra medioevo ed età contemporanea (Eds.: R. Braccia, A. Carrera, A.A. Cassi, E. Fusar Poli, A. Marchisello, G. Rossi, C.E. Tavilla, A. Sciumè), Giappichelli, Torino, 2012, pp. 151–185.
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  12. Giovanni Valentino Mattia Fabbroni was one of the most renewed intellectuals in the Tuscan cultural circles of the late 18th century. In their review of the history of analytical chemistry in Italy, Burns et al. stated that Fabbroni’s research interests encompassed natural sciences, mineralogical and agricultural chemistry, electrochemistry, and political economy. Fabbroni was also involved in managing the Imperial and Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History, where he worked since he was sixteen years old as an assistant to the director Felice Fontana (1730–1805). In 1780 Fabbroni was appointed as Museum’s Vice Director. He became Museum Director in 1825. See: T. Burns, G. Piccardi, L. Sabbatini, Microchim Acta, DOI: 10.1007/s00604-007-0769-0. For a more exhaustive Fabbroni’s scientific biography see: R. Pasta, Scienza, Politica e Rivoluzione. L’opera di Giovanni Fabbroni (1752–1822) intellettuale e funzionario al servizio dei Lorena, L.S. Olschki, Firenze, 1989; S. Contardi in Linnaeus in Italy: the spread of a revolution in science (Eds: M. Beretta, A. Tosi), Science history publications, Sagamore Beach, 2007, pp. 113–128.
  13. Archivio Museo Galileo (AMG), Fabbroni 10, cc. 1–99.
  14. The Archive of the Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History preserves more than 5700 records about the administration, organization, and management of the Museum from 1775 to 1872. This archival fund represents one of the most important sources of information to investigate the fascinating and complex history of this institution.
  15. On the history of the collections housed at Imperial and Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History see: G. Barsanti, G. Chelazzi (Eds.), Il Museo di Storia Naturale dell'Università degli Studi di Firenze. Le Collezioni della Specola, Firenze University Press, Firenze, 2009; M. Raffaelli (Ed.), Il Museo di Storia Naturale dell'Università di Firenze – Le collezioni botaniche, Firenze University Press, Firenze, 2009; S. Monechi, L. Rook (Eds.), Il Museo di Storia Naturale dell'Università degli Studi di Firenze. Le collezioni geologiche e paleontologiche, Firenze University Press, Firenze, 2010; G. Pratesi (Ed.), Il Museo di Storia Naturale dell'Università degli Studi di Firenze. Le collezioni mineralogiche e litologiche, Firenze University Press, Firenze, 2012; J. Moggi Cecchi, R. Stanyon (Eds.), Il Museo di Storia Naturale dell'Università degli Studi di Firenze. Le collezioni antropologiche ed etnologiche, Firenze University Press, Firenze, 2014; M. Borgheresi, F. Di Benedetto, A. Caneschi, G. Pratesi, M. Romanelli, L. Sorace, Phys. Chem. Miner., DOI: 10.1007/s00269-007-0175-5; G. Pratesi, A. Franza, E. Lascialfari, L. Fantoni, F. Malesani, A. Hirata, Geoheritage, DOI: 10.1007/s12371-021-00624-1.
  16. On 18 October 1771, Felice Fontana (1730–1805), who was the first director of the Imperial and Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History, received the inventory concerning the scientific instruments and the naturalistic specimens kept in the Royal Gallery (today Uffizi Gallery) that had belonged to the Medici family. AMG, ARMU 001, aff. 1, cc. 331–380. On the scientific Medicean collecting see: F. Camerota, M. Miniati, I Medici e le scienze: strumenti e macchine nelle collezioni granducali, Giunti, Firenze, 2008. For an investigation of the Medici collections that are still preserved at the Florentine Natural History Museum see: A. Re, D. Angelici, A. Lo Giudice, J. Corsi, S. Allegretti, A.F. Biondi, G. Gariani, S. Calusi, N. Gelli, L. Giuntini, M. Massi, F. Taccetti, L. La Torre, V. Rigato, G. Pratesi, Nucl. Instrum. Methods Phys. Res. B: Beam Interact. Mater. At., DOI: 10.1016/j.nimb.2014.11.060.
  17. The Accademia del Cimento, founded by Leopold I de Medici (1617–1675) and Ferdinand II de Medici (1610–1670) in 1657, was the first scientific society in Europe. It remained active until 1667 and was devoted to studying the natural philosophy’s principles in the light of the experimental method. During the Accademia’s meetings, usually held at Pitti Palace, the participants –among which there were Francesco Redi (1626–1697) and Giovanni Alfonso Borelli (1608–1679)– performed experiments on thermometry, barometry, and pneumatics using the purpose-built instruments that were stored in the grand-ducal residence, until Peter Leopold transferred them to the Imperial and Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History at Torrigiani Palace. See: P. Findlen, Academies, networks, and projects: the Accademia del Cimento and its legacy, Galilaeana, 7, 2010, 277–298.
  18. In the spirit of Enlightenment, useful knowledge covered many disciplines (from today’s hard sciences to humanities) that could improve a country’s education, progress, and civilization. See: T. Morel, G. Parolini, C. Pastorino (Eds.), The making of useful knowledge, Max Planck Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin, 2016. In this scientific, social, and cultural milieu, the establishment of the Imperial and Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History can be included among the policies – such as the reforms of hospitals and libraries – Peter Leopold implemented for the public good. See: M.M. Goggioli, La Biblioteca Magliabechiana. Libri, uomini, idee per la prima biblioteca pubblica a Firenze, L.S. Olschki, Firenze, 2000; E. Chapron, Il patrimonio ricomposto. Biblioteche e soppressioni ecclesiastiche in Toscana da Pietro Leopoldo a Napoleone, Archivio Storico Italiano, 2009, 167, 299–346; E. Diana, M. Geddes de Filicaia, Regolamento dei regi spedali di Santa Maria Nuova e di Bonifazio, Polistampa, Firenze, 2010; S. Barchielli, L'Istituto vaccinogeno all'Ospedale di Santa Maria degli Innocenti di Firenze nel XVIII secolo, Nuncius, 1998, 13(1), 247–263.
  19. S. Contardi, La casa di Salomone a Firenze: l’Imperiale e reale museo di fisica e storia naturale, 1775–1801, L.S. Olschki, Firenze, 2002.
  20. For instance, an overview of the museum acquisitions coming from the Habsburg dominions is reported in: M. Benvenuti, V. Moggi Cecchi, L. Fantoni, R. Manca in Collectio Mineralium. The catalog of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold’s II mineralogical collection (Eds: A. Franza, J. Mattes, G. Pratesi), Firenze University Press, Firenze, 2022.
  21. A classic example of the objects realized at the museum laboratories is the anatomical models produced at the La Specola wax workshop. See: A. Maerker, Model experts: wax anatomies and Enlightenment in Florence and Vienna, 1775-1815, Manchester University Press, Manchester, 2011.
  22. Among the museum workshops, Contardi highlighted how the physics cabinet represented one of the most renewed research centers on electrical phenomena at that time and was attended by various scholars such as Angelo Querini (1721–1796), Antonio Vallisnieri junior (1707–1777), and Carlo Barletti (1735–1800). The latter studied the machines that were built there. Furthermore, the physics cabinet also realized mechanical and pneumatic equipment and various optical instruments. See S. Contardi in Il Museo di Storia Naturale dell'Università degli Studi di Firenze. Le collezioni della Specola (Eds.: G. Barsanti, G. Chelazzi), Firenze University Press, Firenze, pp. 18–25.
  23. The surviving pneumatic pumps (ca. 13 instruments) are now preserved at the Museo Galileo (Inventory nos. 358–359, 423, 831, 1530–1537, 3777). Among these, it is worth mentioning a pear-shaped glass ampoule that was used to simulate the aurora borealis phenomenon (Inv. no. 423), two vitreous globes for experiments with a bladder in a vacuum (Inv. nos. 358–359), and an air pump that resembles the device described by Jean Antoine Nollet (1770–1770) in his Leçons de physique expérimentale (1743–1748) (Inv. no. 1534). On the latter instrument, see: P. Brenni in The art of teaching physics: the eighteenth century demonstration apparatus of Jean Antoine Nollet (Eds.: L. Pyenson, J.F. Gauvin), Septentrion, Sillery, 2002, pp. 11–27.
  24. O. Gori, Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, 2002, 46(2/3), 518–532.
  25. See: G. Scorrano, N. Nicolini, I.M. Masoner, J. Chem. Ed., DOI: 10.1021/ed079p47. Peter Leopold’s workbench is now displayed in Room X of the Museo Galileo’s permanent exhibition.
  26. Hubert Franz Hoefer was born in Colonia in 1728. There was no news about him until 1765 when he arrived in Firenze along with Peter Leopold’s retinue. He remained in Firenze for 25 years and was appointed director of the court’s pharmacy. In 1766 he commissioned the Tabula Affinitatum, i.e., a table of the chemical affinities between different substances based on Étienne-François Geoffroy's Table des differents Rapports observés entre differentes substances (1718), for the apothecary’s shop. The Tabula Affiliated is now preserved at the Museo Galileo (Inv. no. 1899). From the early 1780s, Hoefer analyzed the Tuscan springs of Rapolano, San Quirico d’Orcia, and Rio nell’Elba. Still, his most renewed investigation was the water analysis of Lagone Cerchiaio in Monterotondo Marittimo, during which he discovered the natural boric acid (1778). When Peter Leopold was crowned as Holy Roman Emperor in 1790, Hoefer returned to Vienna, where he died as a court chamberlain five years later. See: G. Piccardi, La Farmacia granducale di Firenze, L.S. Olschki, Firenze, 2018; G. Piccardi, Nuncius, 2004, 19(2), 545–568.
  27. After the renovation of Bagni di Pisa and Bagni di Lucca, Peter Leopold oversaw the establishment of a new thermal center near Montecatini. Following the works of David Becher (1725–1791), who was a physician and a balneologist also known as the “Hippocrates of Karlovy Vary”, the Grand Duke ordered chemical analyses on both cold- and hot-water springs to formulate individual hydrothermal treatments. Similar investigations were performed in the Siena area by Giuseppe Baldassarri (1705–1785). See: V. Becagli in Una politica per le terme: Montecatini e la Val di Nievole nelle riforme di Pietro Leopoldo. Atti del Convegno di studi: Montecatini Terme, 25-26-27 ottobre 1984, Periccioli, Siena, 1985, pp. 174–210; G.L. Corinto, Geotema, 2019, 60, 44– 52; A. Guarducci in Chiare, fresche e dolci acque. Le sorgenti nell’esperienza odeporica e nella storia del territorio (Ed.: C. Masetti), Cisge, Roma, 2020, pp. 355–370.
  28. A. Franza, R. Fabozzi, L. Vezzosi, L. Fantoni, G. Pratesi, Earth Sci. Hist., DOI: 10.17704/1944-6178-38.2.173; A. Franza, J. Mattes, G. Pratesi, Collectio mineralium. The Catalog of Holy Roman Emperor Leopold’s II Mineralogical Collection, Firenze University Press, Firenze, 2022.
  29. M.J. Ventresca, J.W. Mohr in The Blackwell Companion to Organizations (Ed.: J.A.C. Baum), Blackwell, Maiden, 2002, pp. 805–828.
  30. E. Solomon, Reference/Representation, 105–108, 2011.
  31. S. Contardi in Il Museo di Storia Naturale dell’Università degli Studi di Firenze. Le collezioni mineralogiche e litologiche (Ed. G. Pratesi), Firenze University Press, Firenze, p. 17.
  32. “Sua Altezza Reale fa sapere all’Aiuto del Direttore del Real Museo Gio: Fabbroni che domane verrà al d. Museo alle ore 2 1/2 pomeridiane scendendo alla porta della strada. 3 Settembre 1789.” See: AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 3.
  33. According to Simon, although he did not enjoy the same historical recognition as other pharmacists due to his opposition to Antoine Lavoisier’s oxygen theory, Baumé was a qualified chemist. He wrote several works on the crystallization of salts, the phenomena of freezing and fermentation, and the properties of boric acid, Sulphur, and opium. Baumé’s research also dealt with the practical use of chemistry. For example, he studied the characteristics of clays and other building materials and created a system for fabric dyeing and silk bleaching. Baumé then proposed a new method for the purification of saltpeter and established the first ammonium salt factory in France. He also perfectioned the empirical hydrometer that today is named after him. On Antoine Baumé see: J. Simon, Osiris, DOI: 10.1086/678108; C. Barnard, A. Fones, Platin. Met. Rev., DOI: 10.1595/147106712X650811. With regards to his studies on fermentation producers, on 9 November 1787, Baumé complimented Fabbroni for the essay about wine fermentation written by his brother Adamo. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 34. The work Dell’arte di fare il vino (1787) dealt with producing and conservating wines to be exported. On Adamo Fabbroni (1748–1816) see: R. Pasta in Dizionario Biografico degli Italiani, Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana, Roma, 1993, vol. 43, pp. 669–673.
  34. Francesco Raimondo Favi was a well-known diplomat in the Parisian political, economic, and cultural milieu. Thanks to his intermediation, new scientific publications as well as diverse mechanical drawings, botanical specimens, and scientific instruments reached Firenze in the last decades of the 1700s. See: Z. Ciuffoletti, Parigi-Firenze 1789-1794. Dispacci del residente toscano nella capitale francese al governo granducale, L.S. Olschki, Firenze, 1994.
  35. Francesco Favi, Joseph Latour (dates uncertain), and David Durand (dates uncertain) oversaw the shipments on the French front, while Rocco Bacigalupo (dates uncertain) was responsible for deliveries from Livorno to Pisa and Firenze.
  36. AMG, Fabbroni 04, cc. 69–72. Another list of chemicals Fabbroni asked Baumé for is given in AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 57.
  37. AMG, Fabbroni 04, cc. 30–32, c. 52.
  38. R.D. Hoblyn, Dictionary of terms used in medicine, printed for Sherwood, Gilbert, & Piper, London, 1844, p. 228.
  39. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 16.
  40. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 11.
  41. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 12.
  42. Bertrand Pelletier was an apothecary conducting diverse investigations into mineral chemistry at his Parisian laboratory in Rue Jacob 48. Following Jean Baptiste Romé de L’Isle’s (1736–1790) studies, he realized salt crystals that were soluble at very slow evaporation. In 1785, he confirmed Carl Scheele’s (1742–1786) discovery that chlorine could be produced from hydrochloric acid and manganese. See: W.A. Smeaton, Platinum Metals Rev., 1997, 41, 86–88.
  43. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 77.
  44. Jean Antoine Chaptal, Count of Chanteloup, was a chemist and a statesman. His studies dealt with the industrial manufacture of soda ash and sodium nitrate. With Louis Nicolas Vauquelin (1763–1829), he determined the alum composition, promoting its industrial production by synthetic means. See: J. Hoff, Technology and culture, 1998, 39, 671–698.
  45. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 43. This document is related to a brief note, showing no signature or date, partially written in French, reporting general information about Chaptal and his well-stocked store in Montpellier. A closing remark in Italian says, “I would write for the prices and the kinds of products he sells”. See: AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 48.
  46. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 50.
  47. AMG, Fabbroni 04, cc. 101 and 108.
  48. AMG, Fabbroni 04, cc. 80–81.
  49. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 2. The document heading reported that if Fabbroni did not need to file the order note, this would be sent back to His Royal Highness.
  50. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 104.
  51. The Pyrophorus Hombergii was a flammable compound realized from human fecal matter created by the Dutch chemistry and physician Wilhelm Homberg (1652–1715) in the early 18th century. See: L. Principe, The Transmutations of Chymistry. Wilhelm Homberg and the Académie Royale Des Sciences, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2020.
  52. AMG, Fabbroni 04, cc. 89–90.
  53. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 86.
  54. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 84.
  55. The lute was usually used in chemical distillation processes to seal a vessel and prevent the dispersion of the stem while protecting its surface from heat. See: S.J. Linden, The alchemy reader: from Hermes Trismegistus to Isaac Newton, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2003.
  56. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 126.
  57. AMG, Fabbroni 04, cc. 96 and 98.
  58. AMG, Affari 002, c. 355.
  59. AMG, Fabbroni 04, c. 30.
  60. AMG, Fabbroni 02, cc. 9–12.
  61. AMG, Fabbroni 02, cc. 2–8. The original title was Relazione sopra le miniere di ferro nel Granducato di Toscana e saggi sopra le medesime fatte da Taddeo Glauscher di Carintia nel 1780. Taddeo Glauscher can be identified with the mining expert Taddeus Rauscher, since the correct spelling of his name is mentioned in the opening of Fabbroni’s report.
  62. AMG, Fabbroni 03, cc. 268–271.
  63. AMG, Fabbroni 03, c. 253.
  64. AMG, Fabbroni 03, c. 251.
  65. AMG, Fabbroni 03, c. 275 and 404.
  66. AMG, Fabbroni 10, cc. 1–99.
  67. The full title of the second catalog’s section is Serie di preparazioni chimiche risultanti dall'analisi dei tre regni della natura e che si conservano in piccoli saggi nella seconda stanza del Laboratorio (Series of chemical preparations resulting from the analysis of the three kingdoms of nature and stored in small samples in the second room of the Laboratory).
  68. Acid and light cacao butter oil (Acido e Olio leggiero del Burro di Caccao), precipitated copal of the Spirit of Wine with the effusion of water (Coppale precipitata dello Spirito di Vino con l’effusione dell’acqua), cherry-laurel spirit (Spirito di Lauro-ceraso), essential oil and resinous part of laurel berries separated from its fixed oil by means of wine spirit (Olio essenziale e parte resinosa delle Bacche di Alloro separati dal suo Olio fisso col mezzo dello Spirito di Vino), aromatic part of wine dissolved in wine spirit (Parte odorante del Vino disciolta nello Spirito di Vino), litmus tincture (Tintura di Tornasole), litmus starch or mold laquer (Fecula del Tornasole ò Lacca muffa).
  69. In his essay on Ticunas, Fontana stated that he had the opportunity to study this vegetable-origin poison at the beginning of his stay in London (approximately in the summer of 1778). The English version of the essay’s title reported the compound as belonging to the Grand Duke of Tuscany. Since no other mention of this fact was written neither in Fontana’s text nor in the chemistry cabinet’s catalog, it is impossible to include this sample within the preparations Peter Leopold owned. See: F. Fontana, Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London, 1780, 70:163–220, ix–xlv.
  70. The third catalog’s section was entitled Libri d'arte che si conservano nel Laboratorio (Arts books kept in the Laboratory).
  71. They were Scopoli’s Materie spettanti alla chimica and the Italian edition of Macquer’s Dizionario di chimica.
  72. The transcription reports as precisely as possible how the books have been inventoried; therefore, possible spelling errors have not been corrected unless they made the text unintelligible.
  73. Here is the original text: un Tasso ed una Bicornia sul medesimo Coppo lustri e intagliati a bulino con vari fregi e coll’Arme de Medici.
  74. AMG, ARMU Affari 004, c. 307.
  75. “Lac Martin fatta da S.A.R. 29 dicembre 1780” in the original text.
  76. U. Schiff, M. Betti, Archeion, 1928, 9:290–324.
  77. “Lac Martin del Bechi” in the text.
  78. See: Tomo Settimo delle Gazzette Toscane uscite settimana per settimana nell’anno 1772, Appresso Anton Giuseppe Pagani Stampatore e Librajo delle Scalere di Badia, Firenze, 1772, No. 12, unnumbered page; P. Landini, Istoria della venerabile Compagnia di Santa Maria della Misericordia della città di Firenze con i capitoli, riforme, e catalogo di tutti i capi di guardia dal suo primo principio, nella stamperia di Pietro Allegrini alla Croce Rossa, Firenze, 1786, p. CXVII;
  79. T. Wright, The Universal Pronouncing Dictionary, and General Expositor of the English Language, the London and New York Printing and Publishing Company, London and New York, vol. 5, p. 267.
  80. F. Flügel, J.G. Flügel, A practical Dictionary of the English and German Languages: Deutsch- Englisch, Julius Richter, Leipzig, 1861, p. 1128.
  81. On the history of sympathetic inks, their usage in the late 18th century, and chemical research about their composition, see: J. Wisniak, Revista CENIC Ciencias Químicas, 2009, 40(2): 111–121; C. Lehman, Ambix, DOI: 10.1179/174582310X12629173849881; K. Macrakis, Prisoners, Lovers, and Spies: The Story of Invisible Ink from Herodotus to al-Qaeda, Yale University Press, New Haven, 2014.
  82. J. Mokyr, The Journal of Economic History, 2005, 65(2):285–351.
  83. R. Vergani, Quaderni Storici, 1989, 24: 123–141; C. Guerra, Lavoisier e Partenope: contributo ad una storia della chimica del regno di Napoli, Società Napoletana di Storia Patria, Napoli, 2017.
  84. G. Fochi, Annali di Storia delle Università Italiane, 2010, 14: 207–216.
  85. AMG, ARMU Affari 002, aff. 94, c. 374.