Accademia dei Fisiocritici
Founded in 1691 by Pirro Maria Gabrielli, a professor of medicine and botany, the Accademia dei Fisiocritici was originally housed in the library of the Spedale di Santa Maria della Scala. In 1694 the academy moved to the Casa della Sapienza, then the seat of the university and now the Biblioteca Comunale degli Intronati, where it collaborated with the university according to an agreement that had been drawn up between the two institutions.
The term fisiocritici, used to define the members of the academy, derives from the union of the Greek words physis (nature) and criticos (judges).
In the 18th century an earthquake, coupled with a succession of political disasters in Siena, heralded a period of decline for the academy, which only ended in 1816 when it moved to its current headquarters, a former Camaldolese monastery donated to it by the Grand Duke Ferdinand III. Originally built in the 12th century, the monastic buildings were refurbished by the academy to house its library, archives and natural history museum.
The academy’s natural history museum dates back to when the academy was founded in 1691. From the second half of the 18th century the museum’s collections grew considerably thanks to a number of private donations, among which were the bequests of the doctor and natural history professor at Siena University Giuseppe Baldassarri and that of Biagio Bartalini. Since 1996 the museum became a member of the Sistema dei Musei Senesi body of Senese museums, known today as the Fondazione dei Musei Senesi.
The museum is divided into three sections: zoology, geology and palaeontology. The zoology section is housed in the upper floors of the monastery and includes collections assembled in the 19h century, featuring molluscs, insects, birds, mammals, fish and reptiles. The geology section is housed in the lower floors of the monastery and includes an assortment of minerals and rocks, including samples of a meteorite that fell near Lucignano d’Asso in and an unusual collection of terracotta mushrooms. The palaeontology section comprises fossils from all eras, including Palaeozoic ferns, ammonites and Jurassic belemnites.
The academy also houses a library that includes some 800 manuscripts and 15,000 books and pamphlets dating from the 15th century to the present day.
Exhibitions are held periodically at the academy, which also organises conferences and meetings for up to 155 people in its Aula Magna, a finely frescoed hall decorated by Vincenzo Dei in 1816 with The Triumph of Science. At least twice a year the academy hosts public scientific assemblies focussing on research carried out by academicians.
The academy also publishes the periodical Atti dell’Accademia delle Scienze di Siena detta dé fisiocritici, the Memorie series, the scientific periodical Etruria natura and the Quaderni scientifico-naturalistici del Sistema Musei Senesi.