“GLOBULANDIA” – An Adventure in Red


Science is difficult to explain. Its terms are complicated and distracting. These are just a few of the many platitudes that haunt science to these days. “Globulandia”, an interactive, interdisciplinary exhibit is designed to settle the record straight. Promoted by Italy’s Centro Nazionale Sangue[1] in collaboration with Rete Città Sane- WHO and under the scientific supervision of SIMTI,  “Globulandia” draws from the world of cinema to develop an innovative style to narrate the blood universe through an evocative stage, where a stream of CG animations coupled with light and audio effects offer an all-round experience.

“An Adventure in Red” is a didactic-scientific exhibition under the aegis of the Ministry of Health addressed to junior high and high school students and to the general public, as well. The exhibition, which  showcases the creative contribution of young Italian talents, is the result of a painstaking research process aimed to craft an adventurous journey into the universe of a most extraordinary and mysterious  fluid – the blood, today’s life-saving drug.  Cultural, historical and scientific inputs are woven into a scientifically rigorous approach to an intriguing  journey into the human body.

The exhibition tells many unique “stories”, but suffice it is to mention that of an unlikely  scientist – a “pioneer” in his own right, who by combining imagination and scientific methodology  broke new ground in the field of blood transfusion. He embodies the values on which “good science” rests and that should preserve it from the sad spectacle of the bartering of hopes for fake revolutionary treatments.

Antonio van Leewenhoeck was a textile trader by craft. He lived and worked in Delft, in the Netherlands, where he developed a great knowledge of all sorts of fabrics. He did not master Latin, but was intrigued by science and above all by medicine. He spent endless nights to study and research the human body. He investigated what scholars knew then about optical sciences and by relying on his imagination, he was able to describe the size and shape of what he called  “red globules” and rendered the first illustration of them. But before the Dutch trader reached the conclusion that blood was not only a red-colored fluid containing many different cells, Marcello Malpighi at the Bologna University discovered that the human blood was made up of a whitish substance and of red corpuscles that he called “the solid part” of blood. It was 1667.

Seven years later Jan Swammerdam, a Dutch naturalist , observed red blood cells under the microscope in some blood that was left in intestinal villi.

The above three scholars discovered that such a red-colored fluid contained several parts they called in many different ways. What they were for was still a mistery back then. But their existence could not be denied. Almost two hundred years will have to go by and many discoveries will have to be made, especially in the field of cell theory – the pillar of modern biology – before we could say that  red cells are the most well-known cells of the human body.

The exhibition first opened in Modena, which hosts the presidency of Rete Citta’ Sane – WHO, on Oct. 10, 2012 then went on to the Festival della Scienza in Genoa Oct. 25- Nov. 4. Its road show will continue in 2013 across Italy in several cities affiliated to the WHO network Rete Citta’ Sane. It is ready to continue its journey to foreign venues as well, because when science can also be fun, it is a “good” to be shared by as many people as possible.

For further info, click on : www.centronazionalesangue.it

Gloria Pravatà is Director of CNS Communication and Media Relations.

[1] CNS – Italy’s National Blood Center