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Revista de la Asociación Geológica Argentina

versión On-line ISSN 1851-8249


MENICHETTI, Marco. The geological perspective of Italy and Chile by Abbot Juan Ignacio Molina between the 18th and 19th centuries. Rev. Asoc. Geol. Argent. [online]. 2011, vol.68, n.3, pp.464-478. ISSN 1851-8249.

The first geological observations in Chile can be traced to Juan Ignacio Molina, a Jesuit priest who was born in 1740 in Chile and died in 1829 in Bologna, Italy. He received a scholarship education with a strong leaning towards philosophy, the humanities and the sciences at the Jesuit College in Concepcion. In 1767, when all the Jesuits were expelled from Chile and the spanish colonies, he took refuge in Italy, first in Imola and then in Bologna where he taught Greek at the University and later natural sciences at the Archiginnasio. During his stay in Bologna at the end of the 18th century, the Jesuit community continued to play an important role in the teaching of the sciences in spite of the Napoleonic occupation. In Bologna, as early as the 16th century, Ulisse Aldrovandi was developing new concepts in geology with his study and systematic collection of fossils. At the beginning of the 18th century, the naturalist and oceanographer L.F. Marsili and one of the fathers of paleontology, G. Monti, built of Aldrovandi's work and contributed to the growth of the Science Institute and the Natural History Museum in the city. It was in this cultural context that in 1782 Molina published in Italian language the Saggio sulla storia naturale del Chile. The book was divided into four chapters, the first two of which dealt with the earth sciences. In this work Molina repeatedly compares the north-south stretched landscapes, the volcanic activity and the geology of Italy and Chile. His next work, Memorie di storia naturale, was published in 1821 and was based on several lectures given by him at the Bologna Academy of Sciences. It contained fourteen Memoria -lectures- referred to different aspects of the natural sciences and six covered geological topics. In 1815, one of Molina's lectures -later Memoria XIV-, was published under the title Less noticed analogies in three kingdom of nature. In this lecture Molina discussed the similarities between minerals, vegetables and animals within the framework of the then accepted philosophy of the Great Chain of Being. Because of his ideas and statements, apparently endowing animals and plants with human characteristics, Molina was denounced for and then cleared of heterodoxy. Abbot Molina made an important contribution to the study of Chile's Natural History, and to the South American natural sciences in general. Although Molina lived most of his life outside of Chile, he nurtured a deep love and pride for his country. The picture that emerges from his writings contributed to a large degree in acquainting the world with his native land and its native peoples.

Palabras clave : Science history; Geology; Europe; South America.

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