Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 42.djvu/119

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THE SCIENTIFIC SOCIETIES OF ITALY.

the middle ages was childish, and, like a child, desired not so much what was accurate as what appealed to the imagination and to the love of the marvelous.

But in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries there was an awakening in Italy, and when these correct copies of the works of Aristotle, which Cuvier pronounced "fresh after so many copies and young after two thousand years," and those of other classic writers became accessible, they found eager students.

From his study of the ancient authors Columbus received knowledge of cosmography and geography, which materially assisted him to his discovery of the New World. Anatomy found diligent students; Italian anatomists attained European reputation; it was at the school of Fabricius de Aquapendente at Padua that Harvey acquired that knowledge which afterward made his name immortal. Even the pencil of Titian was not above illuminating the pages of the great anatomical work of Vesalius. Titian was not alone among the artists of this period who became enamored with the new sciences. The greatest of these was Leonardi da Vinci, the most universal genius, perhaps, who ever lived. His Last Supper is one of the chief masterpieces of the world; he distinguished himself in sculpture, architecture, poetry, and music; he performed clever feats in engineering; anatomy, botany, geology, mathematics, astronomy, chemistry, and geography all received valuable contributions from his investigations. He anticipated many of those wonderful discoveries in physical sciences which fell to the succeeding generation to fully develop.

No better illustration of Da Vinci's acuteness of reasoning could be obtained, perhaps, than by quoting his observations on the origin of fossils. It must be remembered that geology did not become a science or the origin of fossils fully settled until two and a half centuries after this remark was made. He strenuously asserts the contents of the rocks to be real shells, and maintains the reality of the changes of the domain of land and sea, which these spoils of the ocean supply.

"You will tell me," he says, "that Nature and the influence of the stars have formed these shelly forms in the mountains; then show me a place in the mountains where the stars at the present day make shelly forms of different ages, and of different species in the same place. And how, with that, will you explain the gravel which is hardened in stages at different heights in the mountains?" Had Leonardo labored assiduously in art alone, there never would have been the need of Michelangelo and Raphael; had he confined himself strictly to one science, Galileo and Torricelli would have found their occupation gone. That which proved Leonardo's personal loss was Italy's gain, for his fertile