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A Clockwork Orange

Citrus Fruits in Early Modern Philosophy, Science, and Medicine, 1564–1668

In: Nuncius
Author:
Fabrizio Baldassarri Ca’ Foscari University of Venice Italy Venice
Indiana University Bloomington USA Bloomington, IN

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Abstract

In the early modern time citrus fruits unpredictably drew enormous attention, not only in mythology or artistic knowledge, but also in natural philosophy and medicine. Embedded within two lesser-known texts belonging to the sciences, in this article I analyse diverse sources to appraise the richness and plurality of approaches to citrus fruits that pool different ways of constructing a complex knowledge of plants. First, I explore the classificatory attempts of Renaissance botanists. Second, I discuss the experimental investigation in the enchantment for monstrosities and teratologies in Della Porta’s natural magic and Aldrovandi’s naturalism. Then, I present the more structured obsession displayed by Giovanni Battista Ferrari. Finally, I investigate the natural philosophical systematization of citrus in Gassendi’s corpuscularianism and Descartes’ mechanics. In outlining a combination of frameworks, the study of citrus fruits surfaces as a suitable case study to assess the complex knowledge of plants in early modern Europe.

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