Slovenia paying tribute to natural history pioneer Scopoli

Idrija, 24 May - Slovenia will mark the 300th anniversary of birth of Giovanni Antonio Scopoli, the pioneer of natural history in Slovenia, with a number of events. The municipality of Idrija, where Scopoli worked as physician for local mercury miners, has declared 2023 as the Scopoli Year.

The events will reach their peak from 1 and 3 June in Idrija and the Museum of Natural History in Ljubljana and the Botanical Gardens in the capital, where busts of Scopoli will be unveiled.

Born in Cavalese in 1723, Scopoli is credited for laying the foundations of occupational medicine, botany, zoology, metallurgy, chemistry, geology and veterinary medicine in the territory of present-day Slovenia.

In celebrating the anniversary, various natural science institutions in Slovenia have thus joined forces, with the programme of the Scopoli Year having been running since March with a number of lectures, exhibitions, guided tours and shows about his life and work.

As Martina Peljhan from the Idrija Mercury Heritage Management Centre told the press earlier this week, it is appropriate that the people of Idrija, as well as other residents of Slovenia, recognise Scopoli as the first mining physician, scientist and polymath.

Blanka Ravnjak from the Ljubljana Botanical Gardens added that the highlight of the festivities would be a three-day event at the gardens next week.

A press conference will be held on 1 June in the Museum of Natural History in Ljubljana, where a bust of Scopoli will also be unveiled and a commemorative stamp issued.

On the following day, an international conference will be held in Idrija, at which experts from various fields will present Scopoli's work and life, followed by a Scopoli-themed guided tour Idrija.

On 3 June, a bust of Scopoli will also be unveiled in the Botanical Gardens, and a monograph on his work and life will be presented, followed by a guided tour of Scopoli's educational trail.

Between 1754 and 1769, Scopoli worked as physician for miners of the mercury mine in Idrija, studying their diseases and social situation, while also spending a lot of time exploring nature in what was then the Duchy of Carniola.

He carried out extensive research and published fundamental works such as De Hydrargyro Idriensi, a medical work on the symptoms of mercury poisoning, and Flora Carniolica and Entomologia Carniolica, putting Carniola on the scientific map of Europe.