Showing posts with label 1633. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1633. Show all posts

4 October 2019

Bernardino Ramazzini - physician

Pioneer in knowledge of occupational diseases, cancer and malaria

Ramazzini worked in medicine for more than half a century
Ramazzini worked in medicine
for more than half a century
The physician Bernardino Ramazzini, often described as the “father of occupational medicine” and responsible also for pioneering work in the study of cancer and the treatment of malaria, was born in Carpi in Emilia-Romagna on this day in 1633.

Ramazzini’s tour de force, which he completed at the age of 67, was his book De Morbis Artificum Diatriba - Discourse of the Diseases of Workers - which came to be regarded as a seminal work in his field, the lessons from which still influence practice today in the prevention and treatment of occupational diseases.

A student at the University of Parma, Ramazzini was appointed chair of theory of medicine at the University of Modena in 1682 and professor of medicine at the University of Padua from 1700 until his death in 1714.

It was while he was in Parma that he began to take an interest in diseases suffered by workers.

When he became a departmental head at Modena, he began to study the health problems of workers in a more systematic way.  He would visit their workplaces, observe the activities they undertook in their work and discuss their health problems with them.

Ramazzini could see that some diseases were attributable to the materials they worked with, including chemicals that would now be classified as hazardous, or the dangers posed by equipment.

The first page of the 1713 edition of Ramazzini's work on the study of occupational diseases
The first page of the 1713 edition of Ramazzini's work
on the study of occupational diseases
Where he was ahead of his time was in observation that other ailments common among workers appeared to be related to how they carried out their work, and whether it involved prolonged, violent, and irregular movements.

Ramazzini saw a relationship between certain disorders and the repetition of particular motions, or the lifting of heavy objects, but also noted that certain diseases appeared to be prevalent in workers whose environment restricted the amount of movement, such as sitting for long periods.

This research formed the basis of many of his lectures and he recommended to doctors treating sick patients that their diagnostic questions should include asking about the patient’s place of work.

Ultimately Ramazzini was able to group his findings in to four areas: occupations that require workers to handle minerals and metals or other raw materials extracted from the earth; workers exposed to air-borne toxins; workers exposed to fluids such as water, milk and alcoholic beverages; and workers whose jobs involved unnatural postures or positions held for long periods.

Ramazzini made important observations about cancer and malaria
Ramazzini made important observations
about cancer and malaria
He also emphasised, again displaying a level of understanding that was perhaps centuries ahead of his time, that other factors could be linked to the degree to which an individual’s working environment impacted his or her health, such as social status and lifestyle.

Ramazzini took 10 years to bring together all his observations in De Morbis Artificum Diatriba, which carried the authority of more than 40 years in medical practice.  He urged physicians to promote the thinking that prevention was as important in cure.

Away from occupational health, Ramazzini was one of the first to point science towards the role that hormones might play in the development of some cancers.  This was based on his observations that there was a virtual absence of cervical cancer among nuns, but a high incidence of breast cancer, which he postulated as possibly due to their abstinence from sexual activity.

He was also one of the first to support the use of quinine - found in the bark of the cinchona tree - as a treatment for malaria.

Ramazzini died in Padua in November, 1714.

The Castello del Pio on Piazza Martiri in Carpi, one of the largest public squares in Italy
The Castello del Pio on Piazza Martiri in Carpi, one of the
largest public squares in Italy
Travel tip:

Carpi, where Ramazzini was born, is situated about 18km (11 miles) north of Modena in the Padana plain. It became a wealthy town during the era of industrial development in Italy as a centre for textiles and mechanical engineering. Its historic centre, which features a town hall housed in a former castle, is based around the Renaissance square, the Piazza Martiri, the third largest square in Italy. Italy’s national marathon has finished in Carpi in 1988 in honour of another of the town’s famous sons, the marathon runner Dorando Pietri.

The Duomo and Palazzo Communale in Piazza Grande in the heart of Modena
The Duomo and Palazzo Communale in Piazza Grande
in the heart of Modena
Travel tip:

Modena, where Ramazzini spent part of his academic life, is a city on the south side of the Po Valley.  It is known for its car industry, as Ferrari, De Tomaso, Lamborghini, Pagani and Maserati have all been located there. The city is also well known for producing balsamic vinegar. Operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti and soprano Mirella Freni were both born in Modena.  One of the main sights in Modena is the huge, baroque Ducal Palace, which was begun by Francesco I on the site of a former castle in 1635. His architect, Luigi Bartolomeo Avanzini, created a home for him that few European princes could match at the time. The palace is now home to the Italian national military academy.

Also on this day:

1657: The birth of Neapolitan painter Francesco Solimena

1720: The birth of print maker and architect Giovanni Battista Piranesi

The Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi


22 June 2017

Galileo Galilei convicted of heresy

'Father of Science' forced to deny that earth revolved around sun

This 1857 painting by Cristiano Benti depicts  Galileo's appearance before the Inquisition
This 1857 painting by Cristiano Benti depicts
Galileo's appearance before the Inquisition
One of the more bizarre episodes in the history of human intellectual advancement took place in Rome on this day in 1633 when Galileo Galilei, the brilliant astronomer, mathematician, philosopher and engineer – often described as ‘the father of science’ - was convicted of heresy.

His crime was to support the view – indeed, to confirm it with scientific proof – that the sun rather than the earth was the centre of the solar system, as had been theorised by the Polish scientist Nicolaus Copernicus in the previous century.

This flew completely in the face of a major plank of orthodox Roman Catholic beliefs, within which the contention that the sun moved around the earth was regarded a fact of scripture that could not be disputed.

Galileo, something of a celebrity in his day who won the patronage of such powerful Italian families as the Medicis and the Barberinis following the discoveries he made with his astronomical telescope, had been essentially under surveillance by the Church since 1609 after publishing details of observations he had made that supported Copernicus’s theory of heliocentrism.

In 1616 the Copernican view was formally declared heretical and the biblical interpretation of creation was reaffirmed, part of which said that “God fixed the Earth upon its foundation, not to be moved forever.”

Pope Urban VIII - Matteo Barberini -  was sympathetic to Galileo
Pope Urban VIII - Matteo Barberini -
was sympathetic to Galileo
Galileo feared arrest but was given permission by Pope Urban VIII, a member of the Barberini faily, to continue his studies into Copernican theory provided his findings drew no definitive conclusions and acknowledged divine omnipotence.

However, when in 1632 Galileo published his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems – namely that proposed by Copernicus and the traditional view put forward by the second century astronomer Ptolemy – he came down heavily in favour of Copernicus.  He was considered by the Church to have gone a step too far and Urban VIII, fearing for his future in a fiercely political climate, felt compelled to act.

Galileo was summoned to Rome for trial by Inquisition in 1633 and despite the strength of his evidence he was found guilty of heresy and forced to recant his own findings as “abjured, cursed and detested”. He did so with great reluctance but little choice, given that the alternative was to be burned at the stake.

As it was he was sentenced to be imprisoned indefinitely, his Dialogue was banned and the future publication of any of his research was forbidden.  He is said to have muttered the words “E pur, si muove” – “And yet, it moves” – after declaring the earth to be a fixed object, which had it been overheard might have enraged the court still further.

Yet he was again shown some clemency, the sentence of imprisonment being commuted to house arrest the following day, after which he was allowed to live out the remainder of his days at his villa at Arcetri, near Florence.  

He went blind in 1638 and died in 1642 but was able, nonetheless, to reconstruct and summarise the discoveries he had made earlier in his life in Two New Sciences, which was smuggled out of Italy and published in Holland.

The 1630 portrait of Galileo by Peter Paul Rubens resides in a private collection
The 1630 portrait of Galileo by Peter Paul
Rubens resides in a private collection
Of course, Copernicus and Galileo were subsequently proved beyond any doubt to be have been right.  Amazingly, it took the Catholic Church more than 350 years to formally acknowledge their error.

In 1757, Galileo’s Dialogue was removed from the Vatican’s list of banned publications and in 1984 a panel of scientists, theologians and historians, assembled in 1979 to look into the 1633 accusations, published a preliminary report which accepted that Galileo had been wrongfully condemned.

However, it was not until 1992 that the investigation was closed and Galileo was officially vindicated in a statement issued by Cardinal Paul Poupard, head of the investigation, which said: “We today know that Galileo was right in adopting the Copernican astronomical theory.”

Galileo's house in Arcetri, the Villa Gioella
Galileo's house in Arcetri, the
Villa Gioella
Travel tip:

The house to which Galileo returned after his sentence was commuted to house arrest is called Villa Gioella, which he rented. It is situated just three or four kilometres – a couple of miles – from the centre of Florence in the Arcetri hills.  In Galileo’s time it was a farmhouse, surrounded by many acres of land. He lived there with his daughter Celeste, who was a nun in an adjoining monastery.

Travel tip:

The Palace of the Holy Office, the building in Rome to which Galileo would have been summoned for trial in 1633, is what is known as an extraterritorial property of Vatican City, in that it lies outside the confines of the Vatican itself. The palace, originally built in 1514 for Cardinal Lorenzo Pucci and called Palazzo Pucci, is situated south of St. Peter's Basilica near the Petriano Entrance to Vatican City. In 1566–67, the palace was purchased by Pope Pius V and it was converted into the seat of the Holy Office.