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  • Article title : Domenico Lovisato: the man who divided the continents
    Article type : Other
    Location : International Geological Congress,oslo 2008

    Fulltext :

    I study the role of the Italian geologist Domenico Lovisato (1842-1915) in the historical and epystemological evolution of the Continental Drift Theory. With reference to a 1874 manuscript, where Lovisato suggested the continental drift, I analyse the reasons why his theory remained undeveloped and the fame was attributed only a few decades later to the famous German meteorologist Alfred Wegener. Since the thirties, when the scientific community was still divided into fixists and mobilists, some scholars studied the epystemological development of the Continental Drift and then, when the Plate Tectonic theory was accepted, the philosophical and epistemological features of this "revolution" was studied. Many scholars point out the incredible similarity between South-American and African coasts. Among them there was Lovisato, who in 1874, explained some considerations about the possibility that Continents once were linked. Fifty years after the letter written by Lovisato, Fossa-Mancini in "La recente teoria della deriva dei continenti in un vecchio manoscritto di Domenico Lovisato" (1924) noticed that "it is striking that both Lovisato and Wegener reached their ambitious conclusions starting from the observation of the surprising correspondence of the coastlines of South America and Africa; bit is also strange that this correspondence had not been noticed of considered with sufficient attention by other researchers before". In the 1874 manuscript, Lovisato provided some mobilistic ideas linked to the Atlantide’s myth, but the manuscript was never published. He never renounced to his ideas, but he recognized that at that time there was still few data to "answer to these arduous problems".
    I suggest that the causes of the lack of the fame due to Lovisato is due to three different factors: (1) biographical, regarding the his public and scientific life and the personal events of Lovisato scientist and Lovisato italian patriot; (2) historical, regarding the geological aims at that times. there were not the main prerequisites necessary for a well-accepted theory, that is, there was not a "mobilistic" paradigm on which to structure available data. (3) Epistemological, regarding the critical development of the scientific knowledge, referring to logical and methodological structures of theories. The hystorical and social evolution of scientific theories was studied by many philosophers and historians. They studied the historical and epistemological evolution of the scientific knowledge and these models were also used in Earth Sciences.
    Lovisato’s ideas forestalled times because he provided the first Earth global theory, as nowadays meant, totally unknown by the scientific community at that times and his general ideas was accepted only many decades later.

    Address : University of Trieste, Italy
    Celebration date : 9 Tuesday September 2008
    Author name : Furlani, Stefano