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c h a p t e r e l e v e n From the New Anatomy to Pathology and Therapy 11.1 A Bologna Controversy and Its Wider Implications The increasingly sophisticated investigations carried out by anatomists in the second half of the seventeenth century left many physicians skeptical. Research on lower animals such as insects, or even plants, had no medical implications in sight. Moreover, as London physician Gideon Harvey pointed out in 1683, techniques of inquiry such as microscopy and the preparation methods associated with it had become so invasive that one could question their reliability. In the 1665 Micrographia Hooke had praised microscopy, enabling the investigator to study nature undisturbed, over vivisection, with its brutal interventionist methods; less than twenty years later, microscopy had become the emblematic interventionist technique:¹ The necessary point of Anatomy consists chiefly in the temperament, Figure, Situation , connexion, action, and use of the parts; and not in superfluous, incertain, and probably false, and indemonstrable niceties, practiced by those, that flea Dogs and Cats, dry, roast, bake, parboil, steep in Vinegar, Lime-water, or aqua fortis, Livers, Lungs, Kidneys, Calves brains, or any other entrails, and afterwards gaze on little particles of them through a microscope, and whatever false appearances are glanced into their eyes, these to obtrude to the World in Print, to no other end, than to beget a belief in people, that they who have so profoundly dived into the bottomless pores of the parts, must undeniably be skilled in curing their distempers; whereas those pretended Anatomical Physitians, who have so belabour’d and tortur’d the particular parts, are generally the least knowing in the whole body of Anatomy. Even more radically, the very role of anatomy of higher animals and humans was questioned. Although these were Europe-wide concerns, Bologna offers an especially fruitful perspective from which to explore them through the acrimonious dispute among Malpighi, Sbaraglia, and their supporters between the end of the seventeenth 308 Anatomy, Pathology, and Therapy and the beginning of the eighteenth centuries. Some of Sbaraglia’s criticisms against invasive techniques of investigation echo the passage by Gideon Harvey just quoted. A sense of the acrimony and pettiness of the dispute can be gained from a Historia medica dedicated by the Bolognese physician Giovanni Battista Giraldi to Sbaraglia, who is referred to as primary professor of medicine, a title allegedly not existent at Bologna. The publication, more like a large miniature book than a small pamphlet, consists of twenty pages in diciottesimo; the only copy I am aware of survives among Malpighi’s manuscripts. Malpighi included a copy with the manuscript of his Opera posthuma purely to ridicule and embarrass its dedicatee by showing the rhetorical flourishes and glowing tone employed by Giraldi in addressing Sbaraglia; it was probably by accident that the Royal Society published it. Despite its local roots and occasional pettiness, however, the dispute gained broad European resonance for its profound medical significance: from Leipzig, for example, Johannes Bohn wrote a rebuttal of Sbaraglia’s work that circulated in manuscript form until Sbaraglia reprinted it with a response. Moreover, the relevant texts from Malpighi’s Opera posthuma—including Giraldi’s tiny work!—were given pride of place in the opening section of the 1699 edition of the Bibliotheca anatomica, thus gaining the most visible place in the most authoritative anatomical publication of its time. Thus, the dispute both reflected and contributed to broader European developments.² Sbaraglia’s attack on Malpighi appeared in the wake of the onslaught by Antonio Felice Marsigli on Malpighi for his opposition to university reform and his lack of commitment to the practice of medicine, whose chair he held. Thus, besides the problems of the glandular or vascular microstructure of many organs and the unresolved puzzles about their mode of operation that we have seen in the previous chapter, Sbaraglia put his finger on another issue: the pathological and therapeutic relevance of the new anatomy. As a result, Malpighi was pressed to spell out the pathological and therapeutic implications of his own research and of those by other anatomists, providing contemporaries and later historians with an invaluable document on the status quaestionis by one of the leading scholars in the field. Sbaraglia’a attack resonates with the shifting concerns by the European medical community toward the study and classification of disease and the emphasis on therapy around the turn of the century in the wake of Thomas Sydenham, whom he...


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