At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Friday, 8 June 2018

Guido Banti – physician

Doctor was the first to define leukaemia


Guido Banti was among the first doctors to understand the disease process in leukaemia
Guido Banti was among the first doctors to
understand the disease process in leukaemia
The innovative physician and pathologist Guido Banti was born on this day in 1852 in Montebicchieri in Tuscany.

His work on the spleen led him to discover that a chronic congestive enlargement of the spleen resulted in the premature destruction of red blood cells. Closely related to leukaemia, this was later named 'Banti’s disease' in his honour.

Banti’s father was a physician and sent him to study medicine at the University of Pisa and the Medical School in Florence.

He graduated in 1877 and was appointed an assistant at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova and also as an assistant in the laboratory of Pathological Anatomy.

The ability to observe patients in bed and then carry out post mortem examinations was to prove fundamental to his work.

Within five years he had become chief of medical services. In 1895, after a five year spell in a temporary post he was appointed Ordinary Professor of Pathological Anatomy in the medical school in Florence. He remained in this post for 25 years.

Banti published the first textbook in Italy on the techniques of bacteriology in 1885.

Banti worked for a while at the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital, the oldest still-active medical institution in Florence
Banti worked for a while at the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital,
the oldest still-active medical institution in Florence
He studied and also wrote about heart enlargement, the causes of aphasia and hyperplastic gastritis. He spent three years studying cancer cells and published a study of typhoid fever.

In 1895 he wrote about endocarditis and nephritis and atherosclerosis of the kidney.

He studied enlargement of the spleen and wrote a paper describing the condition that would become known as Banti’s disease. He proposed that the enlarged spleen was the cause of red cell destruction which led to anaemia and that only removal of the spleen could stop this process. On his advice, the first splenectomy for haemolytic jaundice was carried out in Florence in 1903.

Banti’s name is still primarily connected with leukaemia and he opposed the views of other scientists about the disease. In 1913 Banti decided that leukaemias are systemic diseases arising from the haemopoietic structures, bone marrow and lymph glands and are the result of the uncontrolled proliferation of stamional blood cells. This accords closely with the modern definition of leukaemia.

Banti died in Florence in 1935 aged 72.

The Church of Santa Lucia in Montebicchieri
The Church of Santa Lucia in Montebicchieri
Travel tip:

Montebicchieri, where Guido Banti was born, is a village to the southwest of San Miniato in the province of Pisa in Tuscany. In the centre of the village is the 14th century Church of Santa Lucia and a tower and parts of the original walls still survive from the medieval fortifications. Many of the houses are now empty and abandoned.

The bust of Guido Banti at the Florence Institute
The bust of Guido Banti at
the Florence Institute
Travel tip:

There is a bust of Guido Banti in the Institute of Anatomy and Pathology in Florence.  The Institute, established in 1824, is famous for its collection of wax pathological models created in the 19th century, which were invaluable teaching tools in medical schools, where living examples, cadavers, and other visual aids of many pathologies were often scarce. One of the most famous pieces in the museum is the 1851 “leper” model by artist Luigi Calamai.  The museum, which was originally housed at the University of Florence, was moved to the city’s Careggi Hospital in 1859.

Also on this day:

1671: The birth of Venetian composer Tomaso Albinoni

1823: The birth of Pompeii archaeologist Giuseppe Fiorelli

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