Dante as a scientist is revealed through a virtual exhibition by the Georgofili Academy

Volumes of the historical library dedicated to the poet’s relationship with botany and agriculture are available online

Photo ©Patrizia Messeri
Photo ©Patrizia Messeri

Dante was not only a man of letters and a poet, but also a man of science, the Accademia dei Georgofili reveals in the virtual exhibition “Dante’s gaze: agriculture and botany in the Dante universe”, organized on the occasion of the 700th anniversary of the poet’s death. Curated by Davide Fiorino and Daniele Vergari, it is available on the academy’s website (www.georgofili.it) and highlights some lesser known aspects of Dante.

Ottaviano Targioni Tozzetti, who at the beginning of the nineteenth century managed the main Florentine botanical gardens under the responsibility of the Academy, wrote in 1820: “Our divine poet deserves to be read, admired and meditated on even by botanists, as by all men of sciences, as an omniscient man of his time, and as a teacher of those who know”.

Dante the scientist: a journey through historic books

Only a few have portrayed the figure of Dante as that of a scientist, a profound connoisseur of the natural world. For this reason, the Academy has made available digital copies of some centuries-old volumes kept in the Historical Library. The leitmotif of the online exhibition and the choice of the works presented reveals Dante as an observer of nature and its phenomena through different approaches: astronomical, meteorological, climatic and environmental.

Among the texts made available in the online exhibition, there are two studies on geography and astronomy in Dante’s works. These are summaries of studies conducted by the English Danteist Edward Moore, founder of the Dante Society of Oxford. Moore is the author of Studies in Dante, a work in four volumes, in which he analyzes literary, historical and scientific issues in the poet’s writings. The two texts “Dante’s geography” and “Dante’s astronomy” are available online, as are the other selected texts.

Upcoming initiatives

The pandemic has made it difficult to organize “physical” events in this first phase of the celebrations dedicated to the poet, but the Accademia dei Georgofili intends to set up an exhibition in its premises where not only the publications that are the subject of the virtual exhibition will be displayed, but also other contents. In particular, the Academy is planning an installation that remembers Dante’s participation in the battle of Campaldino, on June 11, 1289. Thanks to the collaboration with the Fiorentina Battaglie in Scala Association, it could potentially be presented in September 2021, with depictions of the formations of the two armies before the aforementioned battle, featuring over 1500 historical figures.