Giovanni Antonio Scopoli

Giovanni Antonio Scopoli

Giovanni Antonio Scopoli
Born (1723-06-03)3 June 1723
Cavalese, Val di Fiemme
Died 8 May 1788(1788-05-08) (aged 64)
Pavia (now Italy)
Residence Italy, Austrian Empire
Nationality Trentino

Giovanni Antonio Scopoli (sometimes Latinized as Johannes Antonius Scopolius) (3 June 1723 – 8 May 1788) was an Italian physician and naturalist. His biographer Otto Guglia named him the "first anational European" and the "Linnaeus of the Austrian Empire".[1]


Scopoli was born at Cavalese in the Val di Fiemme, belonging to the Bishopric of Trent (today's Trentino), the son of a lawyer. He obtained a degree in medicine at University of Innsbruck, and practiced as a doctor in Cavalese and Venice.[2] Much of his time was spent in the Alps, collecting plants and insects, of which he made outstanding collections.

He spent two years as private secretary to the bishop of Seckau, and then was appointed in 1754 as physician of the mercury mines in Idrija, a small town in the Habsburg realm, remaining there until 1769. In 1761, he published De Hydroargyro Idriensi Tentamina on the symptoms of mercury poisoning among mercury miners.

Copper engraving from the Deliciæ Floræ et Faunæ Insubricæ (1786)

Scopoli spent time studying the local natural history, publishing Flora Carniolica (1760) as well as a major work on the insects of Carniola, Entomologia Carniolica (1763). He also published a series of Anni Historico-Naturales (1769–72), which included first descriptions of birds from various collections.

In 1769, Scopoli was appointed a professor of chemistry and metallurgy at Mining Academy at Schemnitz (now Banská Štiavnica, Slovakia), and in 1777 transferred to the University of Pavia.[2] He became a bitter rival of Lazzaro Spallanzani, who was accused of stealing specimens from the Pavia museum. Spallanzani was tried and the prolonged trial resulted in acquittal. Shortly thereafter, Scopoli died of a stroke.[3] His last work was Deliciae Flora et Fauna Insubricae[4] (1786–88), which included scientific names for birds and mammals in northwestern Italy described by Pierre Sonnerat in the accounts of his voyages.

The plant alkaloid and drug scopolamine were first found in the genus Scopolia which is named after him. The standard botanical author abbreviation Scop. is applied to species he described.

Scopoli corresponded with Carl Linnaeus, a Swedish botanist who laid the foundations of modern taxonomy.[1] Scopoli communicated all of his research, findings, and descriptions (for example of the olm and the dormouse, two little animals hitherto unknown to Linnaeus). Linnaeus greatly respected him and showed great interest in his work. He named a solanaceous genus, Scopolia, the source of scopolamine, after him. Because of a great distance, they never met.[5][6]

Scopoli is frequently mentioned by Gilbert White in his "Natural History and Antiquities of Selborne".


Flora Carniolica (1760)

Some taxa named by Scopoli

Some taxa dedicated to Scopoli


  1. 1 2 Soban, Branko. "A Living Bond between Idrija and Uppsala". The Slovenian. Retrieved 4 April 2012.
  2. 1 2 Newton, Alfred 1881. Scopoli's ornithological papers. The Willoughby Society. Scanned version
  3. Mazzarello, Paolo 2004. Costantinopoli 1786: la congiura e la beffa. L'intrigo Spallanzani. Bollati Boringhieri
  4. Insubria is a historical-geographical region which corresponds to the area inhabited in the past by the Insubres, a Celtic people which dwelt in the 4th–5th centuries BCE. in the area of pre-Alpine lakes and Milan.
  5. Soban, Branko (January 2005). "A Living Bond between Idrija and Uppsala". Slovenija.svet. Slovene Emigrant Association. Retrieved 2007-12-01.
  6. Scopoli, Giovanni Antonio. Joannes A. Scopoli-Carl Linnaeus. Dopisovanje/Correspondence 1760-1775, ed. Darinka Soban. Ljubljana, 2004: Slovenian Natural history society.
  7. T. Ings & R. Edwards (2002). "Dolichovespula sylvestris (Scopoli,1763)". Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society. Retrieved 20 September 2014.
  8. IPNI.  Scop.
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