By Meredith K. Ray

ISBN-10: 0674504232

ISBN-13: 9780674504233

The period of the clinical Revolution has lengthy been epitomized through Galileo. but many girls have been at its forefront, deeply invested in empirical tradition. They experimented with drugs and useful alchemy at domestic, at court docket, and during collaborative networks of practitioners. In academies, salons, and correspondence, they debated cosmological discoveries; of their literary creation, they used their wisdom of common philosophy to argue for his or her highbrow equality to men.

Meredith Ray restores the paintings of those girls to our realizing of early glossy medical tradition. Her examine starts with Caterina Sforza’s alchemical recipes; examines the sixteenth-century fashion for “books of secrets”; and appears at narratives of technology in works by way of Moderata Fonte and Lucrezia Marinella. It concludes with Camilla Erculiani’s letters on average philosophy and, eventually, Margherita Sarrocchi’s protection of Galileo’s “Medicean” stars.

Combining literary and cultural research, Daughters of Alchemy contributes to the rising scholarship at the variegated nature of medical perform within the early sleek period. Drawing on quite a number under-studied fabric together with new analyses of the Sarrocchi–Galileo correspondence and a formerly unavailable manuscript of Sforza’s Experimenti, Ray’s ebook rethinks early sleek technological know-how, thoroughly reintroducing the crucial and crucial paintings of women.

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21 At age fourteen, she left Milan to celebrate her wedding and join her husband in Rome. There she participated in the city’s lively court culture for several years, until civil unrest forced the pair to leave Rome and take up residence in the Romagna, where Girolamo had been invested with the signoria of Imola and Forlì. 22 Especially legendary is the story of Caterina’s defense of the Rocca di Ravaldino, the main fortress of Forlì, in the wake of the coup against Girolamo, when she successfully outwitted her enemies by overturning their expectations of her as a female ruler.

Among Caterina’s medicinal recipes are a number of distilled waters, unguents, and elixirs produced through alchemical procedures such as multiplication, a kind of progressive distillation whereby a substance assumes greater and more diverse powers during the course of preparation. A “marvelous secret unguent” (una untione mirabile segreta), good for gout, sciatica, and ner vous tension, requires boiling meat and salad leaves in wine for eight hours, then draining the mixture and gradually adding more ingredients such as rosemary and other herbs.

51 The tension revealed here between the secrecy and obscurity traditionally associated with alchemical experiment and the practical imperative to disclose and share information, especially (but not only) when it relates to health, is characteristic of scientific culture in the early sixteenth century. 52 Further contributing to an aura of secrecy is a handful of Caterina’s recipes that are offered either partially or wholly in Latin rather than Italian. These recipes are for the most part related to the transmutation of metals, the Latin intended to signal their particular gravity and importance, both in terms of their alchemical content and their significance as a tool for the creation of currency.

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Daughters of Alchemy: Women and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy by Meredith K. Ray


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