Showing posts with label 1537. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1537. Show all posts

20 May 2018

Hieronymus Fabricius - anatomist and surgeon

Research pioneer known as “Father of Embryology”

Girolamo Fabrizio spent much of his academic life at the University of Padua
Girolamo Fabrizio spent much of his academic
life at the University of Padua
The pioneering anatomist and physiologist known in academic history as Hieronymus Fabricius, whose Italian name was Girolamo Fabrizio, was born on this day in 1537 in Acquapendente, in Lazio.

Fabrizio, who designed the first permanent theatre for public anatomical dissections, advanced the knowledge of the make-up of the human body in many areas, including the digestive system, the eyes and ears, and the veins.

But his most significant discoveries were in embryology.  He investigated the foetal development of many animals and humans and produced the first detailed description of the placenta. For this he became known as the "Father of Embryology".

Fabrizio spent most of his life at the University of Padua, where he was a student under the guidance of Gabriele Falloppio, who discovered the tube connecting the ovaries with the uterus that became known as the Fallopian tube.

He succeeded Falloppio as chair of surgery and anatomy, holding the post from 1562 to 1613 and building a reputation that attracted students from all of Europe.

Among his pupils were the English anatomist William Harvey, as well as Giulio Casseri and Adriaan van den Spiegel, both of whom went on to become significant anatomists in Italy. Indeed, both also occupied the chair of surgery and anatomy at the University of Padua.

The Teatro Anatomico at the University of Padua was designed by Girolamo Fabrizio
The Teatro Anatomico at the University of Padua was
designed by Girolamo Fabrizio
Fabrizio’s dissections of animals enabled him to make discoveries about the formation of the fetus, the structure of the esophagus, stomach and intestines, and the workings of the eye, the ear, and the larynx. He was the first to note that the pupil of the eye changes in size.

He was the first to identify the membranous folds that he called "valves" in the interior of veins, which are now understood to prevent retrograde flow of blood within them.

Fabrizio also described the cerebral fissure separating the temporal lobe from the frontal lobe of the brain, although it is only recently that he has been credited with the discovery.

The statue of Girolamo Fabrizio in his home town of Acquapendente
The statue of Girolamo Fabrizio in
his home town of Acquapendente
He was a practising surgeon as well as an anatomist. Extraordinarily, the technique he invented to perform a tracheotomy is very similar to the procedure used in the operation today.

Fabrizio never actually performed such an operation himself, but in his writing he described using a vertical incision and a tracheostomy tube, a short, straight cannula to which he added wings to prevent the tube from disappearing into the trachea.

The technique may have been used for the first time by the surgeon Marco Aurelio Severino during a diptheria epidemic in Naples in 1610.

Fabrizio died in Padua in 1619 at the age of 82. There is a monument to him in his home town of Acquapendente.

The castle at Torre Alfina, near Acquapendente
The castle at Torre Alfina, near Acquapendente
Travel tip:

Acquapendente is a medieval town in northern Lazio, about 140km (87 miles) north of Rome, just under 30km (18 miles) west of Orvieto. It takes its name - literally translated as ‘hanging water’ - from the small waterfalls that flow into the Paglia river. Among the main sights is the Duomo di Acquapendente, which developed from a former Benedictine monastery, developed in the 12th century. A short distance from Acquapendente is he castle of Torre Alfina, the central tower of which was built by the Lombard king Desiderius.

Palazzo Bo, the historic home of the University of Padua
Palazzo Bo, the historic home of the University of Padua
Travel tip:

The founding of the University of Padua is officially recorded to have taken place in 1222 but this was actually the first time it was mentioned in an historical document, which means it is certainly older. It was formed when a large group of students and professors left the University of Bologna in search of more academic freedom. The first subjects to be taught were law and theology.

Also on this day:

1470: The birth of the poet Pietro Bembo, lover of Lucrezia Borgia

1943: The birth of the veteran singer Al Bano


23 March 2018

Lorenzino de’ Medici - assassin

Mystery over motive for killing cousin

Alphonse Mucha's  1896 lithograph of Lorenzino
Alphonse Mucha's
1896 lithograph
of Lorenzino
Lorenzino de’ Medici, who became famous for the assassination of his cousin, the Florentine ruler Alessandro de’ Medici, was born on this day in 1514 in Florence.

The killing took place on the evening of January 6, 1537.  The two young men - Alessandro was just four years older - were ostensibly friends and Lorenzino was easily able to lure Alessandro to his apartments in Florence on the promise of a night of passion with a woman who had agreed to meet him there.

Lorenzino, sometimes known as Lorenzaccio, left him alone, promising to return with the woman in question, at which point Alessandro dismissed his entourage and waited in the apartments.  When Lorenzino did return, however, it was not with a female companion but with his servant, Piero, and the two attacked Alessandro with swords and daggers. Although a struggle ensued, they killed him.

The motive has been debated for centuries. One theory was that it was an act of revenge following a legal controversy the previous year, when Alessandro sided against Lorenzino in a dispute over the inheritance of his great, great grandfather, Pierfrancesco the Elder. Civilities were maintained at the time, yet Lorenzino was disadvantaged financially.

Another is that Lorenzino, as a junior member of the family compared with his cousin, wanted to make his mark in history by any means possible. Murdering Alessandro, who had been installed as Duke of Florence by the Medici pope Clement VII, and thus extinguishing the main branch of the Medici family (descended from Cosimo the Elder, the founder of the dynasty), would give him immortality, albeit of a dark kind, in the family history.

His own explanation, which he set out in a remarkable defence of his crime, entitled Apology, which he wrote within days of Alessandro’s death, was that he committed the crime out of a love of liberty, ridding Florence of a leader generally acknowledged as a tyrant.

The murder of Alessandro by Lorenzino,
as imagined in an 1863 engraving
There were suggestions that Lorenzino wanted to see a revival of the Republic of Florence, which had been disestablished with Alessandro’s appointment, following an 11-month siege.  This theory seemed to be supported by Lorenzino fleeing Florence first to Bologna, where he met Silvestro Aldobrandini, a republican exile, and then on to Venice, where he was welcomed by another exile, the wealthy banker Filippo Strozzi.

His supporters hailed him as a latterday Brutus, who had slain Julius Caesar in the name of liberating Rome, but whatever the truth of the story, Lorenzino was to spend the rest of his life effectively on the run, constantly looking over his shoulder at who might be plotting to avenge his cousin’s death.

In the event, there was no re-establishment of the Florentine Republic. Alessandro’s father-in-law, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, appointed 17-year-old Cosimo I de’ Medici, from the so-called cadet line of the family, as Duke of Florence, which effectively meant Lorenzino could never return.

For the next few years he moved between Venice, Mirandola in the Duchy of Modena, Constantinople and France.  While he was in Constantinople, Strozzi was taken prisoner after his forces were beaten by the army of Cosimo I and he died in 1538.

While in France, where he enjoyed the hospitality of many Florentine exiles, Lorenzino acted as a go-between for the French king, Francis I, in trying to organise Florentine exiles to mount a new military attack on Cosimo I.

Titian's portrait of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V
Titian's portrait of Holy Roman
Emperor Charles V
He returned to Venice in 1544, by which time the city was crawling with spies working on behalf of the Emperor and of the Medici family. Lorenzino was sheltered by the papal legate Giovanni Della Casa, but as more and more exiled Florentines left for France, fearful for their lives if they stayed in Venice, he became increasingly isolated.

The inevitable happened on February 26, 1548, when Lorenzino was murdered. Two mercenary assassins were responsible, but the identity of who hired them has been disputed by historians over the centuries.  A early theory that the disgraced former Medici secretary Giovanni Francesco Lottini was responsible was eventually discounted, to be replaced by an acceptance that Cosimo I ordered the murder directly to avenge the death of his predecessor.

More recent research has established that the trail actually went back to Charles V himself, who was grief-stricken by the death of Alessandro, his daughter Margaret’s husband, and without the knowledge of Cosimo I instructed Juan Hurtado de Mendoza, his ambassador in Venice, to see that Lorenzino paid the ultimate price.

The Villa del Trebbio, the Medici villa in the Mugello area
The Villa del Trebbio, the Medici villa in the Mugello area
Travel tip:

In the early part of his life, Lorenzino lived in the Villa del Trebbio, near San Piero a Sieve in the Mugello area, about 30km (19 miles) north of Florence, the area from which the Medici family originated. The villa had belonged to Giovanni di Bicci de' Medici, the founder of the Medici bank, and was remodelled by his son, Cosimo de' Medici (Cosimo the Elder), whose architect, Michelozzo, restyled it as a fortified castle.

Palazzo Strozzi in Via de' Tornabuoni, the  high fashion centre of Florence
Palazzo Strozzi in Via de' Tornabuoni, the
high fashion centre of Florence
Travel tip:

The Strozzi family, who were great rivals of the Medici family in Florence in the late 15th century, left their mark on the city in the shape of the Palazzo Strozzi, which can be found right in the heart of the city in Via de’ Tornabuoni, where all the high fashion stores are now clustered (the Gucci shop is directly opposite). Many buildings were demolished to create a big enough space for the palace, a towering three-storey structure with a facade of rusticated stone, which was started in 1489 on the instructions of Filippo Strozzi the Elder, who died two years later long before it was finished. On completion, it was confiscated by the Medicis, who did not return it to the Strozzi family for 30 years.

More reading:

Cosimo de' Medici - the banker who founded the Medici dynasty

The despotic reign of Alessandro's successor, Cosimo I

How the forces of Charles V sacked Rome

Also on this day:

1919: Benito Mussolini and the founding of the Italian Fascists

1922: The birth of Commedia all'Italiana star Ugo Tognazzi