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A: Amsterdam-Centrum, Amsterdam, Noord-Holland, Netherlands

Luigi Marsigli Issues the First Book Entirely Devoted to Marine Science and First Oceanographic Study of a Single Region


In 1725 Italian count Habsburg general, military engineer, scientist and virtuoso, Luigi Ferdinando Marsigli published Histoire physique de la mer in Amsterdam. This work, illustrated with an engraved frontispiece and 52 engraved plates, and a glowing introduction by physician Herman Boerhaave, was the first book devoted entirely to marine science, and the first oceanographic study of a single region. Marsigli conducted an intensive investigation of the Gulf of Lyon in the south of France, taking soundings to obtain a profile of the sea floor, analyzing the relationship of the lands under and above water, studying the water's physical properties (temperature, density, color) and its motions (waves, currents, tides), and describing the marine life of the region. Marsigli was the first to give an account of formation of the continental shelf and slope, and the first to class corals as living beings rather than as inorganic mineral formations. His belief that the land and the sea bed formed a continuous structure was confirmed when he discovered rock strata dipping below sea level at the coast. Marsigli's work prefigured the systematic oceanographic exploration that would begin fifty years later with Captain James Cook's voyage in the Endeavor.

Deacon, Scientists and the Sea 1650-1900 (1971) 170-185. Stoye, Marsigli's Europe 1680-1730 (1994) 295-96. Hook & Norman, The Haskell F. Norman Library of Science and Medicine (1991) no. 1445.

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