Paolo Boccone - Life


Born in Palermo, he often visited the botanical garden (l'Orto Botanico) founded in Messina by the Roman doctor Pietro Castelli, who became his instructor. He traveled across Sicily, to Corsica, Paris, and London and took a doctor's degree in Padua. He published Recherches et observations naturelles (Paris, 1671; illustrated and greatly enlarged edition Amsterdam, 1674), which concerned itself with various theories of nature, and supplied important contributions to the fields of palaeontology, medicine and toxicology.

He was employed as court botanist to Ferdinando II de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany as well as to Ferdinando's son, Cosimo III.

In the work Museo di piante rare della Sicilia, Malta, Corsica, Italia, Piemonte, e Germania (1697), Boccone described many rare plants of Sicily, Malta, Italy, Piedmont, and Germany. A fungus scientifically named Pisolithus tinctorius was called in the Sicilian dialect catatùnfuli, and Boccone writes that this fungus was employed by the women of Messina in order to dye cloth.

In 1682, Boccone entered the order of the Cistercians and took the name Silvio.

Boccone had been widely regarded by the scientific community, and was in contact with many European naturalists. The French botanist Charles Plumier studied under him at Rome.

Boccone died in Altofonte in the monastery of Santa Maria di Altofonte, not far from Palermo.

Plumier named the genus Bocconia, in the family of the Papaveraceae, after him, a name that was later adopted by Linnaeus.

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