Padua is the ideal place to trace the history of man’s progress and achievements in the field of science, technique and creativity.
In its ancient and glorious University fundamental contributions to the progress of science and technology have been made thanks to the presence of enlightened and ingenious personalities. The University of Padua, which was established in 1222, is one of the oldest in the world (the second in Italy after Bologna University) and keeps several places of great historical value: the anatomical theatre (1594), which is the oldest in the world, the 14th-century Medicine room, Galilei’s chair, the Aula Magna and the 16th-century old cloister, both decorated by students and professors’ coats of arms, the statue of Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the world’s first female graduate (1678).
The botanic garden is another scientific treasure. It was founded in 1545 by Padua University for the study of the ‘simples’, i.e. medical plants. It is the oldest university botanical garden in the world, which has never moved from its original settlement. It keeps about 6000 plants: exotic, medicinal, poisonous and insectivorous. The oldest tree here is a Palm planted in 1585 and known as Goethe’s palm, having supposedly played a role in the German writer’s work on the Metamorphosis of the plants. Since 1997 the garden is part of the Unesco World Cultural Heritage.
The Province of Padua is a proud founder of the Museum of the history of medicine in Padua. The complex of the ancient Hospital of S. Francesco houses the Museum; thanks even to multimedia and interactive system it is worth a visit. The museum has 6 main rooms, a “new generation” anatomical theatre and 8 thematic display areas, each one devoted to an organ. A rich collection of historical finds and modern technologies will guide visitors to discover the medicine. For info www.musme.it
Another scientific monument belonging to Padua University is the astronomic observatory, called La Specola. It was built in the 18th century on a tower belonging to Padua medieval castle to test the astronomic theories elaborated at the University. Today it houses the University Astronomy Department and a museum, where various scientific instruments coming from different countries are displayed.
Many other University museums reveal the continuing influence of this ancient institution on world art and culture: the Geological and Paleonthological Museum, the Museum of Phisycs, the Museum of Mineralogy, and many other institutes of research and scientific studies.
By the year 2007 a new museum dedicated to the History of Medicine and Health will be inaugurate inside the 15th century complex of St. Francesco’s Hospital.