There is perhaps no innate contradiction between science and poetry, but it is not often that they are found together in the same man. Dante, like Goethe, half a millennium later, was not only drawn by the beauty of nature, but he had likewise an unquenchable intellectual curiosity, and sought diligently to understand the meaning of the universe in which he lived. No other poet has ever combined the loftiest poetry with the discussion of such complicated topics in all branches of learning. In one place we find a long discussion of the origin and development of life, which, naive and scholastic as it is, shows some lines of resemblance to the modern doctrines in biology; in another place there is a learned discussion between the poet and Beatrice concerning the cause of the spots in the moon, in which an actual experiment in optics is given.
L. Oscar Kuhns, The Treatment of Nature in Dante’s ‘Divina Commedia’ (1897)