In 1705-1706, during the War of the Spanish Succession and two years after a devastating earthquake, an ‘epidemic’ of sudden deaths terrorized Rome. In early modern society, a sudden death was perceived as a mala mors because it threatened the victim’s salvation by hindering repentance and last confession. Special masses were celebrated to implore God’s clemency. Pope Clement XI initiated the procedure for the canonization of the Blessed Andrea Avellino, a Theatine cleric who had died of apoplexy in 1608, proclaiming him a saint and the protector against sudden death. In the meantime, a lively medical debate arose as to the causes of these sudden deaths. The pope ordered his personal physician, Giovanni Maria Lancisi, to perform a series of dissections in the university anatomical theatre in order to discover the “true causes” of the deadly events. It was the first investigation of this kind ever to take place for a condition which was not contagious. The book that Lancisi published on this topic, De subitaneis mortibus (‘On Sudden Deaths’, 1707), is one of the earliest modern scientific investigations of death; it was not only an accomplished example of mechanical philosophy as applied to the life sciences in eighteenth-century Europe, but also heralded a new pathological anatomy (associated with Giambattista Morgagni).

The Mechanical Medicine of a Pious Man of Science : Lancisi’s De subitaneis mortibus (1707)

DONATO, MARIA PIA
2009

Abstract

In 1705-1706, during the War of the Spanish Succession and two years after a devastating earthquake, an ‘epidemic’ of sudden deaths terrorized Rome. In early modern society, a sudden death was perceived as a mala mors because it threatened the victim’s salvation by hindering repentance and last confession. Special masses were celebrated to implore God’s clemency. Pope Clement XI initiated the procedure for the canonization of the Blessed Andrea Avellino, a Theatine cleric who had died of apoplexy in 1608, proclaiming him a saint and the protector against sudden death. In the meantime, a lively medical debate arose as to the causes of these sudden deaths. The pope ordered his personal physician, Giovanni Maria Lancisi, to perform a series of dissections in the university anatomical theatre in order to discover the “true causes” of the deadly events. It was the first investigation of this kind ever to take place for a condition which was not contagious. The book that Lancisi published on this topic, De subitaneis mortibus (‘On Sudden Deaths’, 1707), is one of the earliest modern scientific investigations of death; it was not only an accomplished example of mechanical philosophy as applied to the life sciences in eighteenth-century Europe, but also heralded a new pathological anatomy (associated with Giambattista Morgagni).
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11584/23973
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