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MONDINO AND THE MEDICAL SCHOOL OF BOLOGNA
The most important contributions to medical science made by the Medical School of Salerno at the height of its development were in surgery. The text-books written by men trained in her halls or inspired by her teachers were to influence many succeeding generations of surgeons for centuries. Salerno's greatest legacy to Bologna was the group of distinguished surgical teachers whose text-books we have reviewed in the chapter, " Great Surgeons of the Medieval Universities." Bologna herself was to win a place in medical history, however, mainly in connection with anatomy, and it was in this department that she was to provide incentive especially for her sister universities of north Italy, though also for Western Europe generally. The first manual of dissection, that is, the first handy volume giving explicit directions for the dissection of human cadavers, was written at Bologna. This was scattered in thousands of copies in manuscript all over the medical world of the fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries. Even after the invention of printing, many editions of it were printed. Down to the sixteenth century it continued to be the most used text-book of anatomy, as well as manual of dissection, which students of every university had in hand when they made their dissection, or wished to prepare for making it, or desired to review it after the body had been taken away, for with lack of proper preservative preparation, bodies had to be removed in a comparatively short time. Probably no man more influenced the medical teaching of the fourteenth and fifteen centuries than Mundinus, or, as he was called in the Italian fashion, Mondino, who wrote this manual of dissection.
Mundinus quern omnis studentium universitas colit ut deum (Mundinus, whom all the world of students cultivated as a god), is the expression by which the German scholar who edited, about 1500, the Leipzig edition of Mundinus' well-known manual, the Anathomia, introduces it to his readers. The expression is well worth noting, because it shows what was still the reputation of Mundinus in the medical educational world nearly two centuries after his death.1
Until the time of Vesalius, whose influence was exerted about the middle of the sixteenth century, Mondino was looked up to by all teachers as the most important contributor to the science of anatomy in European medicine since the Greeks. He owed his reputation to two things: his book, of which we have already spoken, and then, the fact that he reintroduced dissection demonstrations as a regular practice in the medical schools. His book is really a manual of making anatomical preparations for demonstration purposes. These demonstrations had to be hurried, owing to the rapid decomposition of material consequent upon the lack of preservatives. The various chapters were prepared with the idea of supplying explicit directions and practical help during the anatomical demonstrations, so that these might be made as speedily as possible. The book does not comprise much that was new at that time, but it is a good compendium of previous knowledge, and contains some original observations. It was entirely owing to its form as a handy manual of anatomical knowledge and, besides, because it was an incentive to the practice of human dissection, that it attained and maintained its popularity.
1 It is probably interesting to note that the word universitas as used here has no reference to our word university, but refers to the whole world of students as it were. In the Middle Ages universities were called ttudia generalia, general studies—that is, places where everything could be studied and where everyone from any part of the world could study. Our use of the word university in the special modern sense of the term comes from the formal mode of address to the faculty of a university when Popes or rulers sent them authoritative documents. Such documents began with the expression Universitas vestra, all of you (in the old-time English, as preserved in the Irish expression, "the whole of ye"), referring to all the members of the faculty. The transfer to our term and signification university was not difficult.
Mondino followed Galen, of course, and so did every other teacher in medicine and its allied sciences, until Vesalius' time. Even Vesalius permitted himself to be influenced overmuch by Galen at points where we wonder that he did not make his observations for himself, since, apparently, they were so obvious. The more we know of Galen, however, the less surprised are we at his hold over the minds of men. Only those who are ignorant of Galen's immense knowledge, his practical common sense, and the frequent marvellous anticipations of what we think most modern, affect to despise him. His works have never been translated into any modern language except piecemeal, there is no complete translation, and one must be ready to delve into some large Latin, if not Greek, volumes to know what a marvel of medical knowledge he was, and how wise were the men who followed him closely, though, being human, there are times when necessarily he failed them.
For those who know even a little at first hand of Galen, it is only what might be expected, then, that Mondino, trying to break away from the anatomy of the pig, which had been before this the basis of all anatomical teaching in the medical schools (Copho's book, used at Salerno and Bologna before Mondino's was founded on dissections of the pig), should have clung somewhat too closely to this old Greek teacher and Greek master. The incentive furnished by Mondino's book helped to break the tradition of Galen's unquestioned authority. Besides this, the group of men around Mondino, his master, Taddeo Alderotti, with his disciples and assistants, form the initial chapter in the history of the medical school of Bologna, which gradually assumed the place of Salerno at this time. There is no better way of getting a definite idea of what was being done in medicine, and how it was being done, than by knowing some of the details of the life of this group of medical workers.
Mondino di Liucci, or Luzzi, is usually said to have been born about 1275. His first name is a diminutive for Raimondo. It used to be said of him that, like many of the great men of history, many cities claimed to be his birthplace. Five were particularly mentioned—Florence, Milan, Bologna, Forli, and Friuli. There is, however, another Mondino, a distinguished physician, who was born and lived at Friuli, and it is because of confusion with him that the claim for Friuli has been set up. Florence and Milan are considered out of the question. Mondino was probably born in or near Bologna. The fact that there should have been this multiple set of claims shows how much was thought of him. Indeed, his was the best known name in the medical schools of Europe for nearly two centuries and a half. He seems to have been a particularly brilliant student, for tradition records that he had obtained his degree of doctor of medicine when he was scarcely more than twenty. This seems quite out of the question for us at the present time, but we have taken to pushing back the time of graduation, and it is not sure whether this is, beyond peradventure, so beneficial as is usually thought.
That his early graduation did not hamper his intellectual development, the fact that, in 1306, when he was about thirty-one years of age, he was offered the professorial chair in anatomy, which he continued to occupy with such distinction for the next twenty years, would seem to prove. His public dissections of human bodies, probably the first thus regularly made, attracted widespread attention, and students came to him not only from all over Italy, but also from Europe generally. In this, after all, Mondino was only continuing the tradition of world teaching that Bologna had acquired under her great surgeons in the preceding century. (See "Great Surgeons of the Medieval Universities.")