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Angelo Sala

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Name  Angelo Sala

Books  Opiologia
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Died  October 2, 1637, Butzow, Germany

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Angelo Sala (Vicenza, 1576 - Bützow, 1637) was an Italian physician and chemist. In 1617, he demonstrated the identity of some artificial and natural compounds in his book Anatomia Vitrioli. Sala died on 2 October 1637 in Bützow.


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Angelo (Angelus) had only one child, a daughter, named Maria, with his wife, Katherine von Brockdorf. One of Angelo's enthusiastic students in Oldenburg, Salamet Anton Günther Billich, later married Angelo's daughter Maria.

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In the late 16th century, after Sala’s grandfather, Angelo Sala, immigrated to Geneva, Sala followed him, as did his brother Domenico Angelo Sala was the self-educated son of an Italian spinner (a person occupied in making thread by spinning). Sala never attended a university but is believed to have learned chemistry in Venice. It is unclear where he acquired his knowledge of medicine, but Sala acted as a physician for many years of his life, personally serving various members of the German nobility and troops.

Medical career

He is reported working as a physician in a number of cities, including Dresden (1602), Sondrio and Ponte (1604), Nuremberg (1606), Frauenfeld (1607), and Geneva (1609). He settled in The Hague, Netherlands, as a physician in 1612-17. During 1617-20 he was physician to Count Anton Gunther of Oldenburg, and he supervised the pharmacies in the Count's territories.

Sala studied medicine and chemistry extensively.He began publishing on chemistry and medicines in about 1608-9. He published rather extensively in the genre, including a book of medications in 1624. He asserted, for instance, was that fermentation was a regrouping of elementary particles that resulted in the formation of new substances.

Building blocks for the invention of photography

One of his primary areas of study concerned chemical identity and the role of atoms in chemical changes. His experiments with silver nitrate and silver salts were an important step towards the invention of the photographic process. In 1614, he demonstrated that "powdered silver-nitrate is blackened by the sun" as well as paper that was wrapped around it. This discovery of the sun and its effect on powdered silver nitrate was not supported and subsequently disregarded by then "respected" scientists saying that his discovery "had no practical application." Strangely enough, there is a very practical application for his discovery and that is the prominent use of silver nitrate in the practice of alchemy.

Robert Boyle had made a similar observation previously, but mistakenly believed that the darkening resulted from exposure to air, rather than light.

It was not until Sala's discovery was combined with the optical works of many other chemists, however, that photography was finally invented in the 1830s. His work was a major step towards a better understanding of chemical reactions and the realization that some substances are composed of chemical combinations of other substances. In 1625, Sala pursued his research interests in conjunction with his service as the personal physician to Johann Albrecht, Duke of Mecklenburg-in Gustow, and then after 1636 as physician to Johann Albrecht's successor, Duke Gustav Adolph in Butzow.

Death and rememberence

Sala died on October 2, 1637. Though he began as the uneducated son of a spinner, and the fact that none of his practices are taught about, both his life and work, though unconventional medical practices, were proven to work so well, even exceed the usefulness of the then commonly used medical traditions, that his services were recommended and used by the highest levels of nobility. He was constantly transferring to new cities to serve as personal physician to dozens of upper class leaders. His non-association to any specific medical practice was seems to have surpassed in its applications and pragmatically self-evident. Sala did well enough that his son, Kammerprusident of Gustow sought ennoblement and his great grandson was named a Count of the Empire in the 18th century.

Sala was above all a practitioner. In his view, demonstrations could be carried out only through manual operations (inventionibus manualibus), that is to say, only with the aid of experimental examples, which he clearly distinguished from argumentation. For him, chemistry was still a handicraft (ars).


Angelo Sala Wikipedia

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