This section on the sciences hosts printed works and manuscripts belonging to the Sciences Library and published between the fourteenth and the twentieth century, true milestones for the development of the modern disciplines of botany, zoology, anthropology and physics
Thomas Stearns Eliot wrote that "We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." This sentence not only evokes the image of a science in the making, suitable for covering the themes of the exhibition, but also metaphorically sums up the history of the Library of Sciences, in its being pulled apart and recomposed throughout the centuries.
The Library in its current form was created in 1999, following the restructuring of University Library System, and includes the former departmental libraries of the 1970s.
The individual sections, geographically dispersed, have a rich and varied history, mostly related to the birth and growth of the Imperial Royal Museum of Physics and Natural History, founded in 1775 by Pietro Leopoldo of Lorraine in the Palazzo Torrigiani on Via Romana. Here are collected the collections of natural history, witnesses of the scientific interests of the Medici and Lorraine Grand Dukes.
The collection consists of a combination of physical and chemical instruments, mineralogical, botanical, zoological and paleontological specimens and an equally important library, which allowed scholars to have in one place tools for their theoretical and practical studies.
In 1859 the Higher Institute of Practical and Vocational Studies inherited the collection, but it was then dispersed among the various cabinets, for the sake of the specialisation of higher education. This reorganisation involved the dismemberment of the collections that in the former Museum of Physics and Natural History constituted a harmonious and functional unit.
With time, the cabinets became autonomous offices - i.e. the sections of Natural Science, Medicine, Philosophy and Philology, Law studies - with their own library, lecture rooms and laboratories. This structure remained unchanged even after 1924, when the Higher Istitute became a University and the sections became academic faculties.
The Natural Science section inherited the collections of the Leopoldine Science Museum, and the premises of Via Romana.
L’attitudine didattica del Museo quindi prevale e le singole sezioni vanno configurandosi come vere e proprie facoltà autonome, con una propria sede, dotata di biblioteca, aule, laboratori e spazio per le collezioni. Questa struttura resta sostanzialmente immutata anche dopo il 1924, quando l’Istituto diventa Università.
In this context we find the characters - explorers, naturalists and scholars - and institutions that contributed actively to the development of the various disciplines, as well as to the enrichment of the library and its archival heritage, which, in the meantime, had been restructured and consolidated around different thematic areas.
Hence the creation of libraries which preserve valuable archival and book collections including those of Targioni-Tozzetti, Giglioli, Micheli, Webb, Mantegazza, Cocchi, Toja, Dini, Schiff, etc. and of the Societies of Botany, Anthropology and Entomology.