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c h a p t e r t w o Epidemic Fevers and the Challenge to Galenism 2.1 Galenic Traditions and New Medical Thinking Changing conceptualizations on the causes and cures of epidemic fevers and controversies on the status of Galenism bore problematic relations to new anatomical findings. The relevant texts we are going to investigate discuss the decline of traditional qualities—hot, cold, wet, and dry—and the distinction between primary and secondary qualities with regard to color and taste in understanding disease and therapy. More generally, they address the relations between philosophy and medicine, tradition and innovation, and theory and practice. The fortunes of Galenism in the early modern period underwent major changes. While the sixteenth century saw the revival of Galen’s doctrines and methods of dissection and more accurate editions of some of his major texts, the seventeenth century witnessed a decline in the interest of his works. Nonetheless, Galen was a complex and prolific scholar whose works remained a centerpiece of academic education : a leading anatomist such as Giovanni Battista Morgagni still lectured on them in the eighteenth century. Already in the sixteenth century we can identify two main strands of Galenism, one more philological, and the other more practical and handson . The Paris professors Guinther von Andernach and Jacobus Sylvius were enthusiastic followers of Galen and edited On Anatomical Procedures (Paris, 1531) and On the Usefulness of the Parts of the Body (Paris, 1538), respectively. Vesalius, by contrast, was more critical and in the preface to De humani corporis fabrica stated that Galen had erred more than two hundred times. Vesalius’s rejection of the interventricular pores (allowing venous blood to seep through from the right to the left ventricles of the heart) and of the rete mirabile (the site where arterial blood was allegedly refined into animal spirits flowing through the nerves) was potentially devastating to Galenic anatomy. The Fabrica, however, was largely true to its title in its focus on structures, and Vesalius did not draw those devastating consequences.¹ While some key features of Galen’s understanding of the body were challenged in the seventeenth century, Epidemic Fevers and the Challenge to Galenism 57 many physicians retained a belief in the importance of anatomy, natural philosophy, and the search for causes of disease—all Galenic tenets. The rise of Paracelsianism and chymical medicine more broadly challenged traditional views and specifically Galenic medicine at the end of the sixteenth and into the seventeenth century. The understanding of bodily operations in health and disease and the subsequent editions of antidotarii—or lists of officially sanctioned remedies—testify to the changing medical orthodoxy. In England too we witness shifting allegiances at the London College of Physicians away from Galenism, toward chymical and mechanical doctrines. In addition, the discovery of the circulation of the blood, the thoracic duct, and the lymphatic system dealt serious blows to traditional anatomy, pathology, and therapy. The angry reaction by the leading Paris Galenist Jean Riolan the Younger to Harvey’s, Pecquet’s, and Thomas Bartholin’s anatomical findings and their implications for medical therapy is emblematic of the state of disarray of traditional medicine at the time.² My focuses are not London or Paris but Messina and Pisa, especially the works Borelli and Malpighi produced there from 1649 to 1665; they are of considerable interest in themselves and for the light they shed on the local scene and also on the broader circulation of texts, practices, scholars, and ideas. Pisa was firmly on the intellectual map, with Medici patronage and scholars of the caliber of Borelli, Malpighi, Bellini, and Fracassati, but Messina too was a notable intellectual and political center, as we will see: in 1644 Thomas Bartholin visited the city, met the professor of medicine and prior of the medical college Pietro Castelli, and was offered a chair at the university, for example, and in 1670 Fracassati followed Malpighi in the first chair of medicine.³ In 1649 Borelli, who held the chair of mathematics at Messina, published a treatise on the malignant fevers of the previous years, Delle cagioni de le febbri maligne, the focus of section 2.2. Borelli’s work is a valuable document on the rise of chymical thinking in medicine and the decline of astrology, an aspect that has often been neglected as part of the decline of traditional Galenic medicine. Moreover, Delle cagioni offers an early picture of the medical thinking of one of the leading mechanists...


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