Mercati, Michael

, a physician and naturalist, the son of Peter Mercati, a physician of St. Miniato, in Tuscany, was born April 8, 1541. After having finished his scholastic education at his native place, he was sent to Pisa, and placed under the tuition of Cesalpini, from whom he derived his taste for the study of nature. Having received his degree of doctor in philosophy and medicine ia that university, he went to Rome, where pope Pius V. | appointed him superintendant of the botanical garden of the Vatican, at the age of twenty-six, but Niceron says he was not more than twenty. Afterwards Ferdinand I. the grand duke of Tuscany, raised him to the rank of nobility; and soon afterwards the same dignity was conferred upon him by the senate of Rome. Among his other honours, Sixtus V. conferred upon him the office of apostolical prothonotary, and sent him into Poland with cardinal Aldobrandini, that he might enjoy the opportunity of increasing his collections in natural history. The same cardinal, when elected pope in 1592, under the title of Clement VIII. nominated Mercati his first physician, and had in contemplation higher honours to bestow upon him, when this able physician died, in 1593, in the fifty-third year of his age. His character in private life was universally esteemed, and the regret of the most distinguished persons of Rome followed him to his grave.

Mercati wrote in Italian, at the request of his patron pope Gregory, a work “On the Plague, on the Corruption of the Air, on the Gout, and on Palsy,Rome, 1576, 4to; and likewise a “Dissertation on the Obelisks of Rome,1589, 4to. But he is principally remembered for his description of the subjects of natural history, particularly of mineralogy, contained in the museum of the Vatican, which was formed under the auspices of Gregory XIII. and Sixtus V. and was afterwards totally dispersed. He was about to prepare engravings of the principal subjects, when his disease, which terminated his life, interrupted his progress. His manuscript came into the hands of Carlo Dati of Florence, where it remained till the time of Clement XI. who purchased it, and caused it to be splendidly edited by Lancisi, his first physician, in 1717, at Rome, under the title of “Metallotheca, opus posthumnm authoritate et mnnificentia dementis XI. Pont. Max. e tenebris in lucem eductum opera & stud. J. M. Lancisi Archiat. Prat, illustratum,” folio. An “Appendix ad Metallothecam” was published in 1719.

Besides his father and grandfather, both men of learning and eminence in their day, there was a Louis Mercati, a physician of the same century, whose medical and surgical works were printed in 1605, and often reprinted, but are not now held in much esteem. 1

1

Eloy by Macjflli, prefixed to the Metallotheca. —Chaufepie.Niceron, vol. XXXVIII. —Eloy Did. Hist, de Medicine, Rees’s Cyclopædia,

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