The small town in Italy where modern medicine was born
During the 16th century, Padua, in northern Italy, was at the forefront of the European scientific revolution.From the 2nd century AD until the end of the Middle Ages it was taken for granted that the internal functioning of monkeys was the same as that of men.
- This was the anatomical starting point established by the 2nd century Greek physician Galen of Pergamum, who at the time was the foremost authority on medicine in Western Europe and Byzantium.
- However, he had never systematically dissected human bodies due to religious, legal, and cultural taboos. Given that, his monkey dissections guided the development and practice of medicine for approximately 1,400 years.
- But then something happened that would change the rules of the game: a scientific revolution broke out in the face of the self-imposed limits of ancient knowledge.
After hundreds of years in which human dissections were frowned upon, in the 16th century a change in favor of scientific research and observation allowed the reality of human anatomy to be known for the first time.
This innovation was what paved the way for the practice of medicine that we know today.
And at the forefront of this movement was an Italian city, Padua, and its university.
The origins of modern medicinePadua has a rich artistic, religious and literary heritage. And the most remarkable thing about this northern Italian city is that it is the cradle of modern medicine.
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Medicine had been studied in Padua for centuries. And this tradition continued when, in 1222, its renowned university was founded, enjoying unparalleled autonomy and religious tolerance.
When the Republic of Venice conquered Padua, in 1405, the Venetians kept the university as the main educational center and managed it under the motto ‘Libertas docendi et investigandi’ (Freedom of teaching and research).
According to Fabio Zampieri, professor of History of Medicine, “Vesalio revolutionized the teaching of anatomy”
“They brought together the best professors from all over Europe, captivated by the guarantee of freedom of research. The fame of the best professors also attracted the best local and international students”, explains Fabio Zampieri, Associate Professor of History of Medicine from the University of Padua.
- As a result, that academy became the center of what Zampieri describes as “the Scientific Renaissance.”
- The other Renaissance of 16th century Italy that was overshadowed by the grandeur of giants like Michelangelo
- It was a time of great change. The Renaissance period brought with it a shift towards a scientific method based on practice and experimentation.
- And it gave tangible results.
- “During the Renaissance, Galileo taught mathematics at this university and spread his new quantitative method, which profoundly influenced medicine,” says Zampieri.
- But he was not the only prestigious professor who passed through that academy.
“William Harvey, who first described the human blood circulatory system, studied medicine in Padua. Santorio Santorio, professor at the university, invented the thermometer. Giovanni Battista Morgagni, professor of anatomy, founded modern pathological anatomy in the 16th century. XVIII. The first human heart transplant in Italy was performed in Padua in 1985,” adds Zampieri.