Medical Renaissance

The Medical Renaissance, from 1400 to 1700 CE, is the period of progress in European medical knowledge, and a renewed interest in the ancient ideas of the Greeks and Romans. Such medical discoveries during the Medical Renaissance are credited with paving the way for modern medicine.

The medical renaissance had to face the many epidemics that decimated the population of Europe until the end of the Middle Ages and beyond, the Renaissance forwarded: plague, leprosy and tuberculosis are the best known examples. But there were many others: syphilis, scabies, anthrax, typhus. Some facts marked the medicine, from that period.

The Medical Renaissance began just as the original Renaissance did, in the early 1400s. Medical researchers continued their Renaissance-evoked practices into the late 1600s. Florence, Italy was credited by most historians for being an influential hub for medical research and communications of proven advancements in the field of medicine. Progress made during the Medical Renaissance depended on several factors. Printed books based on movable type, adopted in Europe from the middle of the 15th century, allowed the diffusion of medical ideas and anatomical diagrams. Linacre, Erasmus, Leonicello and Sylvius are among the list of the first scholars most credited for the starting of the Medical Renaissance. Following shortly after, Andreas Vesalius made a significant contribution to the Medical Renaissance by authoring the work of writing, whose literal title is “Human Factory”, or more freely translated as “On the Fabric (or Structure) of the Human Body.” His work outlined influential and progressive surgical operations which he devoted years of his life to discover. Better knowledge of the original writings of Galen in particular, developed into the learned medicine tradition through the more open attitudes of Renaissance humanism. Church control of the teachings of the medical profession and universities diminished, and dissection was more often possible.

The globalization of diseases between the old and the new world
On the one hand the sequela of the great sores that were the protagonists and devastated the end of the medieval age. During the XIV century the black plague appeared in Europe, causing some 20-25 million Europeans to die.

Still the European appearance of Syphilis, the Mal Franzoso. For the secondary form of this disease, around 20 million people will die in Europe . The maximum extension of this epidemic was in 1495 in Naples, defended by Italians and Spaniards and besieged by the French army in the service of Charles VIII. During the siege, French prostitutes spread the disease between the mercenary armies and the Spanish soldiers, giving rise to the mysterious scourge called the Gallic disease and later as the “disease of love”.

The American natives will be vice versa, in contact with diseases such as smallpox, measles and tuberculosis.

Birth of science
In the XV and XVI centuries the philosophy of science and humanism originated in Italy: the flourishing in Italy of the universities, sheltered from the new mercantile classes, pushed the intellectual engine from which the scientific progress that characterized this period derived. This “new era” brought in particular to the natural sciences and to medicine, under the general principle of critical revisionism. We began to contemplate the universe under a mechanistic viewpoint.

For many scholars, up until that time, making a scientific discovery meant searching for the real Galen, or in any case searching the classics for something that had escaped posterity. More than science it was philology.

The church also, with the Papal Bulls De cadaverum sectione of Sixtus IV and Clement VII, resolves all the ambiguous interpretations on the previous provisions concerning the impediments to human dissection.

Medical Procedures on the Deceased
The development of autopsy allowed society to use it for forensic and health purposes. In the early 1300s, Italian cities established a group of doctors to assist in investigating the cause of death in murder trials. In 1302, the death of Azzolino degli Onesti was investigated because it was suspected that he was poisoned. From the surgeon’s examination, they concluded that the cause of death was from a large amount of blood that gathered around the chilic vein and the veins of the liver.

Doctors began doing autopsies on their private patients during the fifteenth century. In 1486, the Florentine patrician, Bartolomea Rinieri, was autopsied at her request so that her daughter could be treated for what caused her death. The surgeons discovered a diseased womb that had hardened. High-class members of society could request their own postmortem because they had the financial means.

Craniotomies were also used by surgeons to find the cause of death. This practice dates back to the thirteenth century. The Medicis, a powerful family in Florence during the Renaissance, had skulls that revealed craniotomies and autopsies had been performed. The procedure was also done on illegitimate members of the family and children. Every skeleton of the Medici family shows signs of embalming, a practice only done for the elite.

The surgeons of the era were also categorized as a class system. They were acknowledged as master surgeons, “surgeons of the long robe,” or the lower class of barber surgeons, “surgeons of the short robe”.

Presence of some great personalities
Now the era of the great anatomists is inaugurated: of those who perform autopsies and observe the human body. Experimental evidence clashes with the anatomical and physiological errors of Galeno and the proposals put forward by Roger Bacon (Italianised in Roggero Bacone) touch all scientific disciplines.

Niccolò Copernico publishes his heliocentric theory, in the same year in which Andrea Vesalio, the main anatomist of this period, publishes: De humani corporis fabrica, his most important work and subsequently used as an indispensable manual for medical students of the next four centuries.

a) Vesalio graduates from the University of Padua, after having trained in Paris, and is named explicator chirurgie (professor of surgery) of this Italian university. During his years as a professor he will write his great work, finishing his professional career as a doctor of Charles I and later of Philip II. He made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1563 as an expiation to commute the death penalty in the penance of pilgrimages. He was in fact sentenced to death for having carried out a dissection on a young nobleman, considered dead, until the discovery, during the autopsy, that at the opening of the chest, the heart was still beating.

Pietro Vesalio is a result of a process that developed slowly since the beginning of the fourteenth century. In 1316 Mondino de Luzzi, medieval by birth, but renaissance by right, he published his Anathomia at the Bologna school, the first text to make an anatomical description of a public dissection, giving rise to a succession of anatomical and surgical treatises in which medicine must reinvent itself as an empirical and proto-scientific discipline.

The same Leonardo da Vinci published a countless catalog of horse illustrations of the anatomy in the art based on the dissection of at least twenty dead bodies, and published the first classification of mental illnesses.

Vesalio’s work saw two editions, during the author’s life, and presupposed an innovative conception of anatomy, a functional anatomy, more than a topographical anatomy, seeing, in the description of the cavities of the heart, what will be the great anatomical and physiological discovery of the time: the pulmonary circulation that will be formulated in a more complete way by two great renaissance doctors Michele Serveto (in Christianismi restitutio of 1553) and Matteo Realdo Colombo (in De re anatomica, 1559), and whose paternity is Classically attributed to the 17th century physician William Harvey.

Following the enormous influence, some anatomical structures were named with the eponym of Vesalius, such as the “forum of Vesalio” (orifice of the sphenoid bone, the “vena di Vesalio”, emissary passing through the hole of Vesalio) or the ” ligament of Vesalio “or” of Poupart “(in the lower edge of the aponeurosis of the external oblique muscle.) The names of some disciples or contemporaries of Vesalius such as Gabriele Falloppio (1523 – 1562) or Bartolomeo Eustachio (1524 – 1574) were also transformed into eponyms.).

b) Ambroise Paré perfectly represents the model of the self-made physician and reinventor of the role of medicine. Despite being a humble family he achieved such fame that he ended up being the court physician of five kings.

His training began in the womb of barbers and dentists, but he accompanied this work with assistance at the Hôtel-Dieu in Paris. He suffered from a certain rejection of the medical community, both because of his humble origins and because of his ignorance of Latin and Greek, which led him to write all his work in French. From the beginning he was considered a renewer, which did not always benefit him, even though his reputation was his main calling card to the end.

Much of his work of analysis is a confutation of customs, traditions, and medical superstitions, without foundation or real utility.

With regard to Paracelsus (Theophrastus Philippus Aureolus Bombastus von Hohenheim), his controversial personality (and the self-proclaimed nickname of Paracelsus as “superior to Celsus himself”, the Roman physician) placed him in a sometimes undeserved field of history: closer to alchemy and magic than to medicine.

His critical study of the Hippocratic humor theory, his work on the synovial fluid or his opposition to the influence of scholasticism and his predilection for experimentation against speculation is undoubtedly worthy of mention. For Paracelsus the true magisterium was not in the books of Avicenna or Galeno, but in the experience. Paracelsus also broke with medical orthodoxy by declaring, in 1527 in Basel: We must not follow the teachings of the old masters, but the observation of nature, confirmed by great practice and experience. Who ignores that most doctors give false advice, thus affecting their patients? I just want to stick to the words of Hippocrates, Galen, Avicenna and others. What the doctor needs is the knowledge of nature and its secrets. Still Paracelsus reborn the concept of self-healing (munia is the vital force that cares and protects the body from external aggressions) also affirming the theory now in time akin to Indian Karma. However, in therapy it uses antimony, arsenic, etc. so he is not considered a true naturopath.

This position, decidedly aggressive against the most orthodox medicine, as well as his herbal studies, considered precursors of homeopathy, earned him the rejection of the German doctors and in general of the official medical historiography.

Of Fracastoro there is little to report if not a minor work written in 1546 that will have repercussions only a few centuries later: De contagione et contagiosis morbis. In it Fracastoro introduced the concept of Seminary morbis (semilla de enfermedad), a rudimentary anticipation of microbial theory.

The medicine of the simple
Another important feature of this era is the attention to the so-called medicine of the simple. Doctors by name who began to draw from these resources that were basically the result of attempts and experiences of centuries, were Gabriele Falloppio, Leonardo Fioravanti, Girolamo Cardano, Ulisse Aldrovandi, in which often (who more or less) magic and botany confused. .

There are still some clinicians to report, such as the French Jean François Fernel, author of Universa Medicina, 1554, to whom the term venereal disease is due.

The renaissance is also the epoch of the development of psychology with Juan Luis Vives, of biochemistry, with Jean Baptiste van Helmont, or of pathological anatomy: Antonio Benivieni summarized in his work De abditis morborum causis (De las causas ocultas de las enfermedades, 1507) the results of the autopsies of many of his patients, comparing them with the symptoms before death, in the same way as modern scientific empiricism. The greatest figure of pathological anatomy is certainly Giovanni Battista Morgagni belonging to the following century.

Restructuring of hospitals
The diseases are divided into “internal” (ie from internal causes) treated by the physician-physician and in “external” (treated by the surgeon)
There is a tendency to create larger hospitals for susceptible sufferers, and smaller hospitals for chronic patients (not susceptible to recovery).
we begin to create an administrative legal staff
the hospital gives less space to charity and focuses on the health of the body
Medicine figures
In the modern age there is a large variety of figures operating in the health sector, sometimes even in conflict with each other. These are:

Regular curators
Graduate doctor: he is the official figure of the doctor, he studies at the university, in three-year courses, through the method of debates. Its preparation is, therefore, focused on logic, rhetoric and classical culture;
Speziale-farmacista: works as a seller of spices and medicines in his shop;
Barber-surgeon: takes care of the “external” care of man, that is, his tasks range from salts to the treatment of skin tumors to the tasks of the barber.

Irregular curators
(mostly itinerant)

Stufarolo: offers hot baths as a service;
Cavadenti: the precursor of the dentist;
Manufacturers and sellers of belt for hernias: this category worked in the shop;
Quack: the name probably derives from “ciarla” or “cerretano” (religious order); his profession is linked to the show: for example, he could work with musicians or monkeys. This category is in competition with doctors;

on the sidelines of the health figures there is the only figure exercisable by women; its task is what concerns female sexuality, including the parts.

With the exception of the graduate doctor, these figures are formed by apprenticeship.

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
Leonardo da Vinci made many contributions in the fields of science and technology. His research centered around his desire to learn more about how the human brain processes visual and sensory information and how that connects to the soul. Though his artwork was widely observed before, some of his original research was not made public until the 20th century. Some of da Vinci’s research involved studying vision. He believed that visual information entered the body through the eye, then continue by sending nerve impulses through the optic nerve, and eventually reaching the soul. Da Vinci subscribed to the ancient notion that the soul was housed in the brain. He did research on the role of the spinal cord in humans by studying frogs. He noted that as soon as the frogs medulla of the spine is broken, the frog would die. This led him to believe that the spine is the basis for the sense of touch, cause of movement, and the origin of nerves. As a result of his studies on the spinal cord, he also came to the conclusion that all peripheral nerves begin from the spinal cord. Da Vinci also did some research on the sense of smell. He is credited with being the first to define the olfactory nerve as one of the cranial nerves.Leonardo da Vinci made his anatomical sketches based on observing and dissecting 30 cadavers. His sketches were very detailed and included organs, muscles of superior extremity, the hand, and the skull. Leonardo was well known for his three-dimensional drawings. His anatomical drawings were not found until 380 years after his death.

Ambroise Paré (1510–1590)
Paré was a French surgeon, anatomist and an inventor of surgical instruments. He was a military surgeon during the French campaigns in Italy of 1533–36. It was here that, having run out of boiling oil (which was the accepted way of treating firearm wounds), Paré turned to an ancient Roman remedy: turpentine, egg yolk and oil of roses. He applied it to the wounds and found that it relieved pain and sealed the wound effectively. Paré also introduced the ligatures of arteries; silk threads would be used to tie up the arteries of amputated limbs to try to stop the bleeding. As antiseptics had not yet been invented this method led to an increased fatality rate and was abandoned by medical professionals of the time. Additionally, Paré set up a school for midwives in Paris and designed artificial limbs.

Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564)
Vesalius was a Flemish-born anatomist whose dissections of the human body helped to rectify the misconceptions made in Ancient Times, particularly by Galen, who (for religious reasons) had been able only to study animals such as dogs and monkeys. He wrote many books on anatomy from his observations; his best-known work was De Humani Corporis Fabrica, published in 1543, which contained detailed drawings of the human body posed as if alive. This book contained many different anatomic sketches that he made upon examining and dissecting cadavers. These sketches were a combination of Italian and Gothic art. Vesalius identified the anatomical errors in Galen’s findings and challenged the academic world. He changed how human anatomy was viewed and researched and is considered a legacy in the medical world. Nicolaus Copernicus published his book on planetary motion in 1543, one month before Vesalius published his work on anatomy. The work by Copernicus overturned the medieval belief that the earth lay at the center of the universe, and the work by Vesalius overturned the old authorities about the structure of the human body. In 1543, these two separate books fostered a change in understanding of the place of mankind within the macrocosmic structure of the universe and the microcosmic structure of the human body.

William Harvey (1578–1657)
William Harvey was an English medical doctor-physicist, known for his contributions in heart and blood movement. William Harvey fully believed all medical knowledge should be universal, and he made this his works goal. Accomplished historians credit him for his boldness in his experimental work and his everlasting eagerness to implement modern practice. Although not the first to propose pulmonary circulation (Ibn al-Nafis, Michael Servetus and Realdo Colombo preceded him), he is credited as the first person in the Western world to give quantitative arguments for the circulation of blood around the body. William Harvey’s extensive work on the body’s circulation can be found in the written work titles, “The Motu Cordis”.This work opens up with clear definitions of anatomy as well as types of anatomy which clearly outlined a universal meaning of these words for various Renaissance physicians. Anatomy, as defined by William Harvey is, “the faculty that by ocular inspection and dissection [grasps] the uses and actions of the parts.” In other words, to be able to identify the actions or roles each part of the body plays in the overall function of the body by dissection, followed by visual identification. These were the foundation for the further research on the heart and blood vessels.

Hieronymus Fabricius (1537-1619)
Hieronymus Fabricius is an anatomist and surgeon that prepared a human and animal anatomy atlas and these illustrations were used in his work, Tabulae Pictae. This work includes illustrations from many different artists and Fabricius is credited for providing a turning point in anatomical illustration. Fabricius’ illustrations were of natural size and natural colors. After Fabricius’ death, Tabulae Pictae disappeared and wasn’t again discovered until 1909. Fabricus focused on the human brain and the fissures that are inside of the brain. In Tabulae Pictae, he described the cerebral fissure that separates the temporal lobe from the frontal lobe. He also studied veins and was the first to discover the valves inside of veins.

Source from Wikipedia