Giorgio “Armeno” Baglivi – “Hippocrates of Rome”

Giorgio “Armeno” Baglivi

Italian physician and scientist nicknamed the “New Hippocrates” and the “Hippocrates of Rome” Giorgio Baglivi was born in 1668 in Ragusa (now Dubrovnik, Croatia) in the south of Dalmatia, a historical region in the northwest of the Balkans.

He, having a father of Armenian descent, was born into a poor family. The name given to him at birth was Armeno.

After the death of his parents in 1670, Giorgio Armeno together with his younger brother moved to the city of Lecce in the Italian region of Apulia. There, they were adopted by rich and famous doctor Pietro Angelo Baglivi who gave them his last name.

Giorgio Baglivi received primary medical education and a medical degree in Salerno. He further studied in Bologna, where he also worked as an assistant of Marcello Malpighi, one of the founders of the microscopic anatomy of plants and animals. Their cooperation continued in Rome.

Baglivi traveled extensively in Italy, working in the hospitals of Padua, Venice, Florence, Bologna, as well as in the Netherlands and England (1688-1662).

In 1696, Giorgio Baglivi was elected professor of anatomy and in 1701 professor of theoretical medicine at the College of Sapienza. Sapienza is a research university founded in 1303 which is today considered one of the oldest universities in Italy and the world.

Baglivi was appointed the personal physician to Pope Innocent XII and later Clement XI. In 1698, he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of England. He also was an honorary member of the French Academy, as well as a member of Rome’s Academy of the Arcadians.

In 1696, Giorgio Baglivi published his most famous work “De praxi medica” (published as “The practice of physick” in 1704 in London), in which he presented his view of medicine as a science based on observation and experiment.

He defended the principles of rational clinical observation established by Hippocrates. In the era of the domination of scholastic views, his works were of great importance for the development of medicine.

Baglivi, studying chemistry, anatomy, and physiology as the natural scientific foundations of medicine, widely applied vivisection and dissection of corpses. The scientist studied the dissected bodies of animals such as lions, turtles, snakes, and deer, made a number of morphological and physiological discoveries, and experimented with toxic drugs.

Giorgio Baglivi was one of the first to describe the typhoid fever called “febris mesenterica”, defining it as inflammation of the intestines caused by drinking low-quality drinking water.

He was a proponent of the surgical treatment of tuberculosis by resection of the ribs and the administration of sanitizing agents into the ulcerated lung cavities.

Baglivi’s work “Opera omnia” (“Complete works”) was published many times in Latin and translated into European languages – for the last time in Paris in 1851.

Giorgio Baglivi died in Rome on June 15, 1707, at the age of 38.

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