Article ID: CBB416789495

Spallanzani, la chimica e la “variazione accettabile” (2020)


On April 1st 1795, after three months of laboratory experiments on respiration, something odd caught Lazzaro Spallanzani’s attention: to his great surprise, he noticed an increasing presence of nitrogen in the air flowing through the lungs of test subjects. Following this observation, Spallanzani started verifying the experimental data obtained by the German chemist J.F.A. Göttling, who – against Lavoisierians – believed nitrogen capable of reactivity. This paper reconstructs the evolution of Spallanzani from his early endorsement of Göttling’s thesis to its complete refutation (1796). In doing so, Spallanzani developed a well-structured experimental procedure and successfully used the concept of “acceptable variation.” Still, his gruelling work on gases had no substantial impact on his biological research. The production of nitrogen remained an unexplained fact, and until his death (1799) he continued his search for acceptable coefficients of variation. But in this case, he did not find firm criteria to separate – as he said – the “costante” from the “accidentale.”

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Authors & Contributors
Monti, Maria Teresa
Schickore, Jutta
Piccolino, Marco
Newman, William R.
Gliboff, Sander
Generali, Dario
Technikgeschichte: Beiträge zur Geschichte der Technik und Industrie
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences
Journal of the History of Biology
Nuncius: Annali di Storia della Scienza
Revue de Synthèse
Physis: Rivista Internazionale di Storia della Scienza
Indiana University
Fondazione Museo Storico del Trentino
Edizioni Pendragon
Edizioni ETS
Experiments and experimentation
Spallanzani, Lazzaro
Lavoisier, Antoine Laurent
Redi, Francesco
Vallisneri, Antonio
Ludwig, Carl Friedrich Wilhelm
Du Bois-Reymond, Emil Heinrich
Time Periods
18th century
17th century
19th century
16th century
20th century
Early modern
Leipzig (Germany)
Berlin (Germany)

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