Savoia, Cheesemaking in the Scientific Revolution: Dairy Products and The History of Early Modern European Knowledge

14 Jan 2019, 17:15 to 14 Jan 2019, 19:15
IHR Past and Present Room, N202, Second Floor, IHR, Senate House, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU
Paolo Savoia, King’s College

In the 1660s, members of the most important European scientific societies – including the Acadèmie des Sciences in Paris, the Royal Society in London, and the Accademia del Cimento in Florence – animatedly debated issues of transformation of matter, coagulation of fluids, and artisanal manipulation of natural substances related to milk, dairy products, and cheesemaking. This paper situates these 17th-century efforts at knowing the processes of cheesemaking within the history of Renaissance and early modern European science and medicine, from the late 15th century to the 18th century, by taking into account the works of naturalists, physicians, agronomists, and natural philosophers. The history of cheesemaking and knowledge is made of several intertwined threads: from early chemical analyses to medical dietetics, from skilled artisanship to husbandry, from the cosmology to embryology, from microscopic observation to folk practices. By raising important issues of natural philosophy, cheesemaking in early modern Europe functioned like a seismographer recording the little shocks punctuating the so-called “age of the new.”