Mieli, Aldo

views updated


(b. Leghorn, Italy, 4 December 1879; d. Florida, Argentina, 16 February 1950)

chemistry, history of science.

Mieli graduated in chemistry from the University of Pisa, then went to Leipzig to attend Ostwald’s lectures on physical chemistry. He next studied mathematics with Ulisse Dini and chemistry with Stanislas Cannizzaro and Emanuele Paternò. He was Paternò’s assistant at the University of Rome from 1905 to 1912. He became a docent at that university in 1908; in the same year he also published two articles on chemistry. Mieli’s interests at this time were not confined to chemistry, however. During the same period he wrote a number of articles of general cultural interest, as well as works on the philosophy of science and the relationships between science and art.

From 1912 on, Mieli began to devote himself to the history of science. He was one of the first to consider this study as an autonomous discipline, and his position was consolidated when he became the Italian bibliographic editor for Isis, which had just been founded. He also collaborated in editing the journal Scientia and edited the Rivista di storia delle scienze mediche e naturali, in whose pages he initiated a campaign to have the history of science taught in the universities. In 1913–1914, with E. Trollo, he began the series Classici della Scienza e della Filosofia, which was inspired by Ostwald’s collection. In 1919 the publisher Nardecchia suggested that he take over the bibliographical work Gli scienziati italiani; while only one full volume (and part of another) appeared, it included studies by A. Boffito, A. Corsini, A. Favaro, G. Loria, and Mieli himself. The journal Archivio di storia della scienza was founded in the same year; Mieli became its editor in 1921 (after 1925, the journal was called Archeion).

At this time, too, Mieli invested his own money in founding the Leonardo da Vinci publishing house. Among its first publications were the Universitas scriptorum and the Rivista di studi sessuali e di eugenetica (Mieli was secretary of the Italian Society for Sexual Studies, and editor of its journal until 1928). The most notable of Mieli’s own works that were published by his house are Pagine di storia della chimica (1922) and Manuale di storia della scienza: Antichitá (1925).

In 1928 political considerations forced Mieli to leave Italy. He went to Paris, where he became director of the section for the history of science of the Centre International de Synthèse, to which he gave his large history of science library. He also continued to edit Archeion and, at a meeting of the International Congress of the Historical Sciences held in Oslo, proposed the formation of an International Committee for the History of Sciences. The members of the committee included Abel Rey, Sarton, Sigerist, Charles Singer, Sudhoff, and Lynn Thorndike; Mieli served as secretary of the group and organized the First International Congress of the History of Science, held in Paris in May 1929. During this congress, the committee transformed itself into the International Academy for the History of Science, and Archeion, under Mieli’s editorship, became its official journal.

In 1939, on the eve of World War II, Mieli again exiled himself. He went to Argentina, where from 1940 until 1943 he taught the history of science at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral in Santa Fé. He created an Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science, continued to edit Archeion, and published a summary of his lectures. In 1943, however, the political situation in Argentina, and especially the intervention of the government into university affairs, forced Mieli to leave Santa Fé, and he retired to Florida, near Buenos Aires, sadly spent in both health and finances. To recoup the latter, he began to write his Panorama general de historia de la ciencia. Of the eight volumes that he planned, two were published before his death; he saw only the proofs of volumes III, IV and V. (The work was finished by Desiderio Papp and José Babini; it was eventually published in twelve volumes.) Mieli was gravely ill for the last three years of his life. He gave up the editorship of Archeion, which became the Archives internationales d’histoire des sciences. In the first issue of the newly renamed journal Mieli wrote, “Je puis mourir tranquille en sachant qu’une partie, au moins, des multiples efforts que j’ai amplement déployés pendant ma vie, pour la réalisation de maints idéaux, va continuer à exercer son action bienfaisante.”


I. Original Works. Mieli contributed significantly to the journals Archeion, Archives Internationales d’histoire des sciences, Archivio di storia della scienza, Gazzetta chimica italiana, Isis, Miniera italiana, Rendiconti della R. Accademia dei Lincei, Rendiconti della Socierà chimica Italiana, Rivista di biologia, Rivista di filosofia, Rivista di storia critica delle scienze mediche e naturali, and Scientia (Bologna).

His separate publications include Influenza che esercita un sale in varie concentrazioni sulla velocità di decolorazione di soluzioni acquose di sostanze organiche sotto l’influenza della luce (Rome, 1906), written with G. Bargellini; Catalogo ragionato per una biblioteca di cultura generale. Storia delle scienze (Milan, 1914); Programma del corso di storia della chimica tenuto nella Universitá di Roma durante l’anno scolastico 1913–1914 (Chiusi, 1914); La scienza greca: I prearistotelici. I. La scuola ionica, la scuola pitagorica, la scuola eleata, Herakleitos (Florence, 1915); Programma del curso di storia della chimica tenuto nell’ Università di Roma durante l’anno scolastico 1914–1915 (Florence, 1915); Lastoria della scienza in Italia (Florence, 1916; Rome, 1926); Per una cattedra di storia della scienza (Florence, 1916); Il libro dell’amore (Florence, 1916), which he considered his spiritual testament; Lavoisier (Genoa, 1916; 2nd ed., Rome, 1926); Lavori e scritti di Aldo Mieli. I. (1906–1916) (Florence, 1917); Pagine di storia della chimica (Rome, 1922); Manuale di storia della scienza: Antichità storia, antologia, bibliografia (Rome, 1925), trans. into French as Histoire des sciences. Antiquité (Paris, 1935); Un viaggio in Germania. Impressioni ed apptunti di uno storico della scienza (Rome, 1927); La science arabe et son rôle dans l’évolution scientifique mondiale (Leiden, 1938), with additional material by H.-P.-J. Renaud, Max Mayerhof, and Julius Ruska; El desarollo histórico de la historia de la ciencia y la función actual de los iustitutos de historia de la ciencia (Santa Fé, 1939); Sumario de un curso de historia de la ciencia en ciento veinte números (Santa Fé, 1943); Lavoisier y la formación de la teoría química moderna (Buenos Aires, 1944); Volta y el desarollo de la electricidad hasta el descubrimiento de la pila y de la corriente eléctrica (Buenos Aires, 1945); Panorama general de historia de la ciencia. I. El mundo antiguo: Griegos y Romanos. II La época medieval, mundo islamico y occidente cristiano (Buenos Aires, 1945); and La teoria atómica quimica moderna desde sus origenes con J. B. Richter, John Dalton y Gay-Lussac, hasta su definitivo desarollo con Stanislao Cannizzaro, el sistema periódico de los elementos y el número atómico (Buenos Aires, 1947).

II. Secondary Literature. On Mieli and his work see Andrea Corsini, “Aldo Mieli,” in Rivista di storia delle scienze mediche e naturali, 41 , no. 1 (1950), 111–113; and P. Sergescu, “Aldo Mieli,” in Actes du VIe Congrés International d’histoire des sciences (Amsterdam, 1951), 79–95.

Maria Luisa Righini Bonelli