Domenico Cotugno 1736-1822

Great Neapolitan phisicians

Grandi clinici napoletani (Leggi versione in italiano)

Medicine had its first official academy with the School of Medicine in Salerno born in the 10th century. The faculty of medicine in Naples was the heir. This formed a group of talented physicians, from Domenico Cotugno, the first great Neapolitan physician, to Giuseppe Moscati, the holy doctor.

The Neapolitan medical tradition was not born by chance. Salerno had been the capital of medicine since the 10th century. The Salerno Medical School had its legendary foundation by three hikers who, during a thunderstorm, discovered to be experts of medicine. They decided to stay in Salerno to set up a medical school in that city.

The Salerno School was the forge of medicine since the 10th century. It was renowned all over the world. Students from all over Europe came and had famous patients. Among the most famous doctors who formed in Salerno is present the name of Trotula de Ruggiero.

Trotula, or Trotta, was a noble of Salerno wife and mother of professors and students of the School. She lived in the 11th century and was the first gynecologist that the history remembers. Her studies came through two manuscripts: “De passionibus mulerium ante in et post partum”, which was translated into Italian and published in Venice in 1547 in “Medici Antiqui omnes”, and “Practice secundum Trotam”. She also wrote an essay on the care of female beauty “De ornatu mulierum”.

Other famous doctors of the Salerno school were: Giovanni Plateario (11th century), married to Trotula de Ruggiero and his sons Giovanni the Young and Matteo (12th century), Giovanni da Procida (13th century), Abella Salernitana (another of the mulieres Salernitanae, 14th century), Matteo Silvatico (14th century), Domenico Cotugno (18th century). The Salerno School in 1231 was recognized by Federico II as the only school that could issue the diploma to practice the profession of physician.

The school then got up and down, slowly giving way to other universities in Europe. In 1811 the King of Naples, Joachim Murat, abolished the School after almost a millennium of activity. Medical studies were centered on the faculty of medicine at the University of Naples, which continued the medical tradition of Salerno. Famous clinicians gratuated in the Neapolitan University who contributed to writing the history of medicine through their studies and clinical observations on the patients.

Domenico Cotugno (1736-1822)

He was born in Ruvo di Puglia on January 29, 1736, belonged to a modest family of farmers. He could study in Molfetta’s episcopal seminary thanks to a Capuchinian monk who took him under his wing. He was passionate about the study of natural sciences and medicine. Already as a child he cut off the dead animals to know the secrets of life. He moved to Naples to continue his medical studies at age 16. Already very young he had already disagreed about the ear canals he had examined in animals and derived the consequences for mankind. He maintained that there was fluid in the inner ear that propagated the sound as opposed to the knowledge of the time that believed that there was only air inside the human ear.

In 1754 he was hired as a physician at the Incurabili Hospital, which at the time was at the forefront for the presence of great masters of medicine. Domenico Cotugno was not content with what he had already achieved, he wanted to graduate from the Salerno Medical School where he studied in depth the medicine. He became professor of “Anatomy” at the faculty of medicine in Naples.

He began a tour of Italy by meeting the scientific personalities of the time in order to extend his knowledge. He had a confrontation with the famous anatomist Natale Saliceti in Rome, he met in Padoa with doctor Giovan Battista Morgagni, whom he appreciated his friendship and the scientific concepts that the physician wanted to share with him. He met in Venice with Abbot Stella, who had known that he could miraculously cure all illnesses. Domenico Cotugno was able to express his opposition to this kind of approach to medicine, made of charlatanism and approximation. He came to Vienna where he treated the court doctor, Giuseppe Vairo, his friend.

A great fame accompanied him on his return to Naples, where he became the personal physician of Ferdinand IV. The notoriety reached allowed him to marry a great Neapolitan noblewoman, Duchess Ippolita Ruffo. The marriage finally opened the door to the high society and allowed his final admission to court. Now in the city it was said that no one could die unless he had obtained the permission of Domenico Cotugno.

Physician of Ruvo studied in depth the prophylaxis of tuberculosis, illness of well-off people and good society. He became “proto-medico” of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies after the Republican parenthesis of 1799. He could organize the profession by regulating its access. He also established that the medical profession was separate from that of a pharmacist. The Neapolitan Pharmaceutical Recipe Book was written in which the various remedies for the most common diseases and related prices were described. He was a supporter of the smallpox vaccine discovered by the American Edward Jenner who inoculated the patients with attenuated disease to create antibodies to the same.

He wrote several treatises of medicine, later translated by Latin: “Commentary on Nervous Sciatica”, “Anatomical Dissertation of Human Internal Ear Aqueducts”, “De ischiade nervosa commentarius”.

Domenico Cotugno died in Naples in 1822. He left a large part of his inheritance to his birthplace, Ruvo di Puglia, who, in order to obtain it, had to bring an action against the widow, Duchess Ippolita Ruffo, who opposed the legacy. The Neapolitan hospital devoted to infectious diseases was titled to his memory.

Antonio Cardarelli (1831 – 1927)

Antonio Cardarelli was the son of the doctor of Civitanova del Sannio, a village in Molise. He was born on March 29, 1831. After attending classical high school in the town of Molise he moved to Naples where he attended the S. Aniello Medical College. He graduated in medicine only 22 years, but because of his sympathy for the Mazzini cause, he had difficult to carry out his profession in a world of conformist and Bourbon academics.

Antonio Cardarelli
Antonio Cardarelli

He was forced to come up with false generalities to overcome the tests for hiring the Incurabili Hospital. He was immediately appreciated, but also envied, by his colleagues for his diagnostic and clinical skills. It is said that colleagues, to make a joke and to make things difficult for him, made visit a fake patient to Cardarelli who, on the suggestion of who had prepared the joke, pretended to accuse the serious symptoms. Antonio Cardarelli diagnosed a chronic nephritis, among the laughs of his colleagues. After a few days the poor man died because of a nephritis.

He was able to diagnose pathologies at first glance. Once he diagnosed a serious illness to a young lady met on the train. Pope Leo XIII had been ill for some time. Cardarelli, reading the medical bulletins of his Roman colleagues, managed to diagnose pleural cancer. He was not believed, but this illness was verified to the death of the Pope. Cardarelli, as usual, was right. He was able to diagnose the aneurysm to the aorta only that the unlucky patient pronounced the letter “a”.

He received the Chair of Medical Pathology at the University of Naples at age 49, where he attended the clinical preparation of many good doctors for the next 43 years. On 1 July 1921 he was consulted, together with his colleague Giuseppe Moscati, at the bedside of Enrico Caruso, a guest of Hotel Vesuvio in Naples. Unfortunately, the two luminaries could not help but diagnose the severe pleuritis that the next day would lead to the death of the great singer.

In 1923, after the last lesson he held from his university campus, a huge procession of his students and former students accompanied the master from Corso Umberto to his home in Constantinopoli street, by drawing the carriage on which Cardarelli was sitting. The procession was followed by all university professors and many patients, to honor what, according to many, was the best modern medicine phyfician.

At 98, on January 8, 1927, Antonio Cardarelli died. In his long life he had been several times deputy and senator. The most important hospital in Naples and the South Italy was entitled with his name.

Leonardo Bianchi (1848 – 1927)

Leonardo Bianchi was born in S. Bartolomeo in Galdo on April 5, 1848. His father personally cared for his classical instruction. He graduated in Medicine at the University of Naples in 1871. After only five years of his degree, he obtained elettroscopia chair. Time later he obtained the chair in Medical Pathology and finally in Medical Clinic at the Neapolitan University.

Leonardo Bianchi
Leonardo Bianchi

After a few years Bianchi began the study of psychiatry as a pupil of Professor Buonomo at the psychiatric hospital of San Francesco di Sales in Naples (today high school G. B. Vico at Via Salvator Rosa). Leonardo Bianchi became a personality in the field of psychiatry becoming a professor of the same at the University of Palermo. Then he was called to succeed his master, Professor Buonomo, after his death in 1890. He substituted for him as a professor at the university and as director of the psychiatric hospital.

Studies of Bianchi located the seat of sensory cognition in the frontal lobe. He was the first to argue that “aphasic dementia” depended on the deafness that obstructed comprehension and prevented the verbal expression of subjects affected by such a disorder.

Leonardo Bianchi was elected deputy and joined with the progressive party. During his political life he was also minister of education. He promoted a committee for the reorganization of secondary education in his role of minister. Bianchi, a nineteenth-century man with classical studies, was the proponent of a reform that provided a secondary school without the study of Latin with the possibility to enter the Technical Institute, the Normal School, the Classical or Modern Lectures. The reform was only implemented several decades later with the creation of the unified media school in 1963.

In 1883 he founded the magazine “Psychiatry“, he was author of numerous publications that contributed to the spread of psychiatric and neurological studies. He promoted the creation of the chairs and study courses of Experimental Psychology at the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy, contributing to the founding of “Psychology” as a humanistic matter distinct from psychiatry and neurology.

In 1925, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Medicine but had the unwillingness of the Italian government led by Mussolini because of his progressive ideas, which prevented him from getting the prize.

On February 13, 1927, he was hit by angina pectoris while attending a university lecture. He was rescued by his colleague Giuseppe Moscati. He died a few hours later. The new provincial mansion of Naples, that he had wanted, was entitled with his name.

Giuseppe Moscati (1880 – 1927)

He was called the doctor of the poor because he was devoting himself to the poor sick men in the “Quartieri Spagnoli” of Naples, who were caring for free. He was born in Benevento on July 25, 1880, but the family was originally from Serino, in the province of Avellino. In Serino there is still a mansion where Giuseppe and his family spent their holidays. His father, magistrate, had duties at Benevento, Ancona and Cassino, as well as in Naples. He, lad, had met Bartolo Longo, the saint founder of the Sanctuary of Pompeii, a family friend, and Caterina Volpicelli, who then became a saint, the founder of the institutes of the Sacro Cuore. In Naples he lived with his family in via Cisterna dell’olio 10, a street close to the church of Gesù Nuovo, which crosses Toledo Street near the square of Dante.

San Giuseppe Moscati - inviaggio - w it 2009 CC BY-SA 3.0
San Giuseppe Moscati – inviaggio – w it 2009 CC BY-SA 3.0

He studied at Vittorio Emanuele high school in Piazza Dante. During this time he had to attend the brother who had been paralyzed by a horseback during military service. His brother’s failure convinced him that his mission was to treat the sick. In 1897 he enrolled in the faculty of medicine at the University of Naples where he graduated with full marks.

He was hired at the Incurabili Hospital, which, as we noted for Antonio Cardarelli and Domenico Cotugno, was a forge of great doctors. In 1906, he was not afraid to run to Torre del Greco, during a violent eruption of Vesuvius, to help save patients hospitalized in the local hospital. In 1911 another cholera epidemic broke out in Naples. Moscati made a study at the Ministry of Public Health, where he identified the necessary rehabilitation works to avoid future epidemics. Some of the suggested works were performed, many others unfortunately did not follow. At that time he was appointed professor of biological chemistry at the university.

At the outbreak of the First World War he immediately applied for enrollment, but he was rejected with the motivation that his work as a physician was much more useful at home. Giuseppe Moscati devoted care to the wounded soldiers who came back from front in his role as Director of the Incurabili Hospital’s military department. In 1919 he was appointed to primary. After three years he was appointed professor of General Medical Clinic. The commission exempted him from supporting the practical test and discussion of the thesis presented by virtue of his great clinical benevolence.

Labor in the hospital did not stop him from dedicating time to the poor. Early in the morning, before serving in the hospital, he was visiting his patients of the “Quartieri Spagnoli”, who were in need of care and comfort. One day he invited a poor patient with chronic illness to appear every morning at a bar where he used to have breakfast, in the bar controlling the course of the illness and offering him plenty of breakfast. In the afternoon he was visiting his patinets in his medical lab in Cisterna dell’olio street.

Moscati wrote numerous publications, in particular on the presence of glycogen in the body, on tuberculosis, on the presence of urea, and on starch sauce in the body. He also devoted a study to Domenico Cotugno, whom he named the founder of the Neapolitan medical school.

In the afternoon of April 12, 1927, while in his office he visited his patients, he suddenly died. He was only 47 years old. In 1930 his remains were translated from the cemetery of Poggioreale to the church of Gesù Nuovo. In 1987 he was declared saint. Many are the faithful who stand in prayer before his grave. Popular faith considers him the protector of the sick men.

M. Serao, Il paese della cuccagna, Ed. Giannini, Napoli, 2004
Centore Giuseppe, San Giuseppe Moscati, Caserta, Brignoli Edizioni, 2013