Friday, January 09, 2015

Touching a revolution: a breakthrough 18th century medical book in Leuven, Belgium

In Scalable Innovation we mention the genius of Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1682-1771), an Italian doctor who started a revolution in healthcare, by systematically cataloguing human diseases and matching them with autopsy results. According to Encyclopedia Britannica,
In his voluminous work On the Seats and Causes of Diseases as Investigated by Anatomy (1761), he compared the symptoms and observations in some 700 patients with the anatomical findings upon examining their bodies.
Today I had a chance to work with this remarkable 18th century book at the University Library in Leuven, Belgium.

The library staff brought the 2-volume book on special pillows; you can see one of them on the first picture above. Morgagni's printed work was designed to help practicing doctors and students of medicine; its first 100+ pages comprise several indices, so that the reader can identify a disease or a body part by symptoms, patient complaints, autopsy results, anatomic details, etc. (see the third picture above).

While touring the library, I discovered a Stanford connection too. In the 1920s, President Herbert Hoover ( the very first student of Stanford University) chaired the Commission for Relief in Belgium that sponsored restoration of the library after it was burned down by German troops during the World War I. The United States provided $500,000 for the project.

tags: history, innovation, medicine, healthcare, storage

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