From the beginning of the eighteenth century, new experiment-based lectures started spreading throughout Europe. These so-called “experimental physics” - or “experimental philosophy” - lectures were extraordinarily successful, not only in universities but in the “salons” and in royal courts as well.

It was within this context that a chair of experimental philosophy was created in Padua in 1738. The new chair was assigned to Giovanni Poleni (1683-1761), mathematician, physicist, but also an expert in several other fields, like classical architecture and philology. The Cabinet of Physics that Poleni set up for his new lectures was located at the Palazzo Bo and it grew to nearly four hundred items. About a hundred of these instruments are still kept at the University of Padua Museum of the History of Physics.

Poleni’s Cabinet of Physics soon acquired an excellent reputation in the whole Europe. The French astronomer Jérôme de Lalande visited it in 1765, stating in his “Voyage d' un François en Italie” that he did not know of “a more beautiful Cabinet of Physics”. As for the Paris Academy of Sciences, it acknowledged Poleni, among other compliments, as the person who brought Padua school of physics “on par with the most well-known schools of this kind”, thanks to its collection of scientific instruments (“Histoire de l'Académie Royale des Sciences”, 1763).