Portrait of Peter Leopold (1800) by Luigi ParadisiMuseo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
The Grand Duke Peter Leopold of the Lorraine Family is best known in history for his numerous reforms, his sense of enlightenment and for being the first in the world for abolishing the death penalty in 1786.
The Scientific Method (2018) by Illustration by Elena TrioloMuseo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
Not everyone, however, knows that he also had a great passion for science of which he was also a great sponsor.
Peter Leopold with his Chemistry Cabinet (2018) by Illustration by Elena TrioloMuseo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
In fact, this strong predisposition for science led him in 1769 to experiment on himself by receiving the “smallpox inoculation.”
This was a practical, initial vaccine against this dreadful disease that tormented Tuscany for several years during that époque.
Hospitals and new doctors with Peter Leopold (2018) by Illustration by Elena TrioloMuseo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
It is documented that the vaccine was administered to the Grand Duke by the Dutch physician, Jan Ingenhousz, who had come to Florence for this specific purpose.
The physician incised the Grand Duke’s skin with a lancet that had been first introduced into a smallpox blister taken from a patient, in order to cause a sort of light and controllable form of the disease.
Detail of Peter Leopold's chemistry cabinet (1700) by Peter Leopold of LorraineMuseo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
Therefore this was a practical type of vaccine that a few years later would be successfully renovated and refined by the English physician Edward Jenner, considered by all as the “Father of Immunization.”
The enlightened Grand Duke fully recognized the benefits of science and experimentation which is made visible on Museo Galileo’s second floor that houses his magnificent personal chemistry bench.
This grand piece of furniture, that when closed takes on the form of a giant cabinet, and once opened is characterized by a large working surface bench where his experiments could be carried out.
Chemistry cabinet (1701/1800)Museo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
The small drawers and cubby holes were filled with both instruments and glass jars of elements. Underneath you can also find a foot bellows especially useful for easily facilitating the combustion of the materials.
Bottle with label "Olio espresso dalle formiche" (1700) by Peter Leopold of LorraineMuseo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza
One small proof of Peter Leopold’s personal experiments can be witnessed in the small, elegant glass bottle labelled “olio estratto dalle formiche” translated into “oil extracted from ants.”
This prized substance makes for an optimal treatment for healing skin wounds.
You can come to Museo Galileo and admire in person this small bottle of potion positioned on his chemistry bench that was prepared by the Grand Duke himself.
By the Didactic Section of Museo Galileo - Istituto e Museo di Storia della Scienza