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David Dunér, Emanuel Swedenborg’s Italian Journey

In focus for this project is the Italian journey of the Swedish natural philosopher and spirit seer Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772), and his Italian contacts and influences. During the years 1736 to 1740, Swedenborg travelled through continental Europe, visiting Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Paris. From Paris he travelled to Italy, visiting Genoa, Padua, Venice, Rome and other places. He had a longer stay in Venice where he worked on a manuscript on brain anatomy and physiology, published posthumously as De cerebro. The aim of the project is, first, to reconstruct his Italian journey based on extant documents, diary notes, letters, and manuscripts. What happened? Who did he meet? What did he see? Second, based on his notes on antique monuments and other tourist attractions, complemented with in situ investigations, I reconstruct the wandering gaze of an eighteenth-century traveller. Third, I study Swedenborg’s relation to Italian medicine. His anatomical-physiological work, Oeconomia regni animalis (1740–41), as well as the posthumously published work De fibra, were strongly influenced by the Italian iatromechanical school, especially Borelli and Baglivi, but also other Italian medical researchers are cited, such as Morgagni, Malpighi, Lancisi, and Guglielmini. The project aims to uncover Swedenborg’s dependence on Italian medicine, and his relations to Italian physicians of the time, and the significance of his Italian journey for his own improvement in medical knowledge and understanding.

David Dunér
Professor
Division of History of Ideas and Sciences
Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences
Lund University

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