Angelo Sala was the self-educated son of an Italian spinner whose experiments with silver salts were an important step towards the invention of the photographic process. In 1614, he demonstrated that the sun blackened powdered silver nitrate, as well as paper that was wrapped around it, and published his findings in a pamphlet. Robert Boyle had made a similar observation previously, but mistakenly believed that the darkening resulted from exposure to air, rather than light. It was not until Sala's discovery was combined with the optics work of many others, however, that photography was finally invented in the 1830s.
Born in Vicenza, Italy in 1576, Sala never attended a university but is believed to have learned chemistry in Venice. It is unclear where he acquired his knowledge of medicine, but Sala acted as a physician for many years of his life and personally served various members of the German nobility after he left Italy sometime between 1602 and 1612. Sala's studies in medicine and chemistry were extensive and Paracelsus heavily influenced his early work. His later publications, however, display a certain amount of skepticism he developed in regards to some of the theories of Paracelsus.
One of Sala's primary areas of study concerned chemical identity and the role of atoms in chemical changes. His work was a major step towards a better understanding of chemical reactions and the realization that some substances are composed of chemical combinations of other substances. One of Sala's assertions, for instance, was that fermentation was a regrouping of elementary particles that resulted in the formation of new substances.
During his final year, Sala pursued his research interests in conjunction with his service to Duke Gustav Adolph in Butzow, Germany. On October 2, 1637, Angelo Sala passed away. However, the formally uneducated son of a tradesman was successful enough that his son aspired for ennoblement and his great-grandson was given the title of Count in the following Century.
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