Baglivi Georgius born Giorgio Armeno

Baglivi Georgius (b. Republic of Dubrovnik [now a part of Yugoslavia], 8 September 1668; d Rome, Italy, 15 june 1707 biology.

Baglivi’s family name was Armeno, which probably indicates that his father was of Armenian origin. His parents were Blasius Armeno and Anna de Lupis, repectable but poor merchants who both died in 1670; Georgius and his younger brother Jocobus were educated first by their uncle and then in the Jesuit College of Dubrovnik.

At the age of fifteen, Georgius left his native town and went to southern Italy, where he and his brother were adopted by Pietro Angelo Baglivi, a physician in Lecce. At college Georgius received very good classical training and was imbued with Peripatetic philosophy. He began medical practice with his foster father.

After completing his medical studies in Naples and receiving the M.D. degree—probably as Salerno in 1688—Baglivi attended Bellini’s lectures at Pisa; Worked in hospitals in Padua, Venice, Florence, Bologna, and other Italian cities; traveled to Dalmatia; and finally decided to settle in Bologna as a pupil assistant of Marcello Malpighi in 1691.

In his student days Baglivi had been attracted by physiological experiments and by postmortem examinations. Therefore, in 1685 he began to experiment with the infusion of various substances into the jugular veins of dogs and to observe the life habits of tarantulas.

From 1689 to 1691, he dissected such various animals as lions, tortoises, snakes, and deer, and made morphological and physiological discoveries, studied the function dura mater by experiments on dogs and observations on wounded men, performed many autopsies, and experimented with toxic drugs. At the same time he served as a physician in many hospitals.

In this way he became aware of a curious discrepancy between clinical practice and newly developing biological research. In his opinion, physicians were slaves to systems and hypotheses.

Under Malpighi’s direction Baglivi experimented on dogs (performing resection of the pneumogastric nerve, infusion of drugs in the veins and spinal canal, and so forth) and on frogs (experiment concerning circulation of blood) and continued his anatomical research, perfecting it by microscopic observations. He studied the fine structure of muscles and of the brain’s membranous envelopes.

Accepting a position as the pope’s archiater, Malpighi moved from Bologna to Rome, and in 1692 invited Baglivi to join him and to live in his house as a kind of scientific secretary. They collaborated closely until Malpighi’s death in 1694.

Baglivi performed an autopsy on his master’s corpse and gave a very good description of his last illness cerebral apoplexy Introduced to the papal court, the friend of such influential scientists as Lancisi, Bellini, Redi, Tozzi, and Trionfetti, and praised as a highly competent practitioner, the young man was destined for a brilliant career.

He became the pope’s second physician in 1695 and in the following year was elected professor of anatomy at the Sapienza in Rome. In Connection with this election, Baglivi published and dedicated to his protector, Innocent XII, a book entitled De praxi media(1696).

It was a lucid pro gram of what medicine should be in the future, an attack against the medico-philosophical systems, and a claim for the Hippocratic principles of sound clinical observation.

With the exception of some fine general statements in an aphoristic form and a small number of fairly good clinical descriptions(e.g. of typhoid fever and of caridac decompensation), this book offers little to a modern reader; its style is somewhat baroque, and its factual medical content is often doubtful.

In any case Baglivi’s treatise is representative of a steam of thought opposed to philosophical generalizations in medical practice. Baglivi became a member of the Roya Society 1697, the Academia Naturae Curiosorum and the Arcadia in 1699, and the Accademia dei Fisiocritici in 1700.

The new pope, Clement XI, confirmed Baglivi in his position at court, and even named him professor of thoretial medicine at the Sapienza in 1701. Balgivi’s research was now concentrated upon the microscopic structure of muscle fibers and the Physical and Physiological properties of Saliva, bile, and blood. His lectures and anatomical demonstrations, as well as his medical consultations, acquired a very high reputation all over Europe.

His philosophical conception of life phenomena makes Baglivi a member of the iatrophysical school, a defender of biomechanicism. Strongly influenced by Santorio, he wrote a commentary to the latter’s De Medicina statica. Accepting Harvey’s theory, Baglivi hoped complete it with his own theory of fluid circulation in nerves propelled by contractions of the dura mater.

He was able to distinguish between the smooth and striated muscles; and discovered the histological distinction between to categories of fibers, which he called fibrae motrices seu musculares (With parallel fiber bundles)and Fibrae membranaceae (With bundles running in various directions).

He believed that all physiological and pathological processes should be explained by the living properties of fibrae. Baglivi gave new life to the ancient doctrine of the methodists and life and health are determined by the physical balance of the active solids (fibers) and the more passive fluids of the body. His fundamental research concerning the fibers made him one before Albrecht von Haller.

Baglivi denied the possibility of spontaneous generation of intestinal parasites described paralytic phenomena after infusion of certain substances into the spinal canal, and predicted the rise of specific chemotherapy.

A strange conflict in his writings is his acceptance of biomechanistic doctrine as a guide for research work and his rejection of all speculative theoretical background in actual medical He said that the iatromathematic physician must forget his theories when he appears at the bedside.


1.Original Works. Among Baglivi’s writings are De paraxi medica ad priscam observandi rationem ravocanda (Rome 1696), trans. as The practice of Physick (London 1704); De fibra motrice, et morbosa, nec non de experimentis, ac morbis salivae, bilis et sanguinis (Perugia, 1700); Specimen quatuor libroum de fibra motrice et morbosa (Rome, 1702); Canones de medicina solidorum ad rectum statices usum (Rome, 1704); Opera omnia medico-practica et anatomica (Lyons, 1704; new enlarged ed., 1710); and Opera omnia medico-practica et anatomica, C. G. Kuhn, ed., 2 vols. (Leipzig, 1827-1828). For a complete list of Balgivi’s published works, see M. D. Grmek, Hrvatska meidicinska bibliogra/ija, I, pt. 1 (Zagreb 1955),32-34

The main collections of Baglivi’s papers and letters are in the National Library, Florence; the Waller Collection, uppsala; and the Osler collection, McGill University, Montreal.

II Secondary Literature. More information on Bglivi and his work can be found in E. Bastholm, History of Muscle physiology (Copenhagen 1950), pp. 178-189; A Castiglioni “Di un illustre medico raguseo del secolo decimosettimo” in Rivista di Storia critica delle scienze mediche e naturali 12 (1921), 1-11; P. Fabre, Un mèdecin italien de la fin du XVII siècle; Georges Baglive (Paris 1896); M. D. Gremek “Osservazioni sulla vita, opera ed importanza storica di Giorgio Bagliv” in Atati del XIV Congresso Internazionale dis Storia della medicina I (Rome,1954), p. 423 and “Zivontni put dubrovaćkog lijećnika Gijure Baglivija”, in Lijećnicki vjisnik 79 (1957) 599-624 J. Jimènez Girona La medicina de Baglivi (Madrid, 1955) L. Müster Nuovi contributi alla biografia di Giorgio Baglivi,” Archivio storico Pugliese, 3, nos . 1-2 (1950) M. Salomon Giorgio Baglivi und seine Zeit (Berlin 1889); F. Scalzi Giorgio Baglivi, altre notize biografiche (Rome 1889); and F. Steen, “Giorgio Baglivi” in Annals of Medical History, 3rd ser., 3 (1941),183-194

M. D. Gremek

Profiles in Cardiology This section edited by J. Willis Hurst, M.D., and W. Bruce Fye, M.C., M.A. Giorgio Baglivi W. BRUCE FYE, M.D., M.A. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minnesota, USA

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