The understanding of occupational diseases dates back to 1700, when the Italian physician Bernardino Ramazzini (1633-1714) wrote Diseases of Workers. As a result of these studies, he was regarded as the father of occupational medicine.
Bernardino Ramazzini was born October 4, 1633, in Carpi, Modena, Italy. Educated in philosophy and medicine, Ramazzini practiced as a physician until late in 1676, when he became a professor of medicine at the University of Modena (1682-1700) and at Padua (until 1714). In 1682 he was invited to join the university by Duke Francesco d'Esta and appointed to the chair of the theory of medicine at the university. Ramazzini took an early interest in epidemiology, the study of the causes, distribution and control of disease, and he described numerous plagues that ravaged his region of Italy. Soon he expanded his studies to occupational diseases, examining more than 50 occupations and the diseases that were frequently associated with them.
In the late 1600s Ramazzini described outbreaks of lathyrism, a disease of humans and animals caused by eating legumes of the genus Lathyrus. The disease is commonly called chick-pea poisoning and is characterized by spastic paralysis, by-paresthesia and paresthesia (a prickling skin sensation). Between 1690 and 1695 he expanded his studies to outbreaks of malaria in Italy. During this study, Ramazzini used the cinchona bark (from which the alkaloid quinine is derived) to treat his malaria-stricken patients. His use of this medicine is considered a turning point in the history of medicine. It was a practice of most physicians of the time to prescribe the cinchona bark extract for all types of illnesses; it was Ramazzini, however, who realized this medicine should not be used indiscriminately, but rather be reserved for the treatment of malaria.
Conducted Comprehensive Studies of Diseases and Their Relationship to Occupations
Ramazzini believed in the importance of visiting workplaces and speaking directly with workers. This was not a belief shared by his peers, and he encountered much sarcasm and derision from other doctors. One of his earliest investigations found that sewage workers were affected with a severe reddening of the eyes, resulting in blindness for many of them. Ramazzini studied this phenomenon, quesa result of this study, he developed the idea for his treatise on occupational diseases.
In 1700 Ramazzini wrote De Morbis Artificum Diatriba ( Diseases of Workers. ) Although the first recorded observations of occupational disease date back to Hippocrates (c. 460-377 B.C.), De Morbis Artificum Diatriba was the first comprehensive work on occupational disease. Ramazzini applied his approach of inspecting the workplace, questioning the workers, and advising on remedies to outline the health hazards associated with chemicals, dust, metals, as well as other abrasive agents that laborers may encounter in the daily routine of their work. In his De Morbis Artificum Diatriba, Ramazzini describes over 50 dirty or dangerous trades; among those at risk, he noted, were miners, gilders, chemists, potters, tinsmiths, glassmakers, painters, tobacco workers, lime-workers, tanners, weavers, coppersmiths, and printers.
Ramazzini begins each chapter of his work with a description of the illness associated with one of the trades. Throughout the document he stresses the need to inform workers about risks to their health in the various occupations he studied. As a result of his personal approach, he was able to devote more detail to each illness and soon became the primary expert on each topic. In addition to the direct relationship between the illness and its associated occupation, Ramazzini was concerned with the pollution of the surrounding area. The expression of his concerns was perhaps the first appreciation of public-health problems.
The Father of Occupational Medicine
As a result of his studies and publication, Ramazzini believed it was the responsibility of medical science to further cultivate the study of occupations and any diseases associated with them in order to provide workers with proper medical attention, thus leaving them free to pursue their trade without concern for illness overtaking them. Much of his approach to advising remedies for illnesses was based on common sense. He advised starch-makers to work in open places, and he stressed the need for improved ventilation. He recommended periodic rests from work and shorter work time to prevent eye injuries for those craftsmen employed to make very small items. He also recommended frequent interruptions to work for workers whose jobs required considerable muscular effort (bricklayers, woodworkers, and printers). Through his studies of artists who developed metallic poisoning, Ramazzini was able to determine the relationship between metals and the symptoms of metallic poisoning. He realized that the paints used by the artists were a factor in their poisoning. His interest in this area of medicine took him into the studies of diseases of other occupations such as eye conditions of printers and mercury poisoning and lung diseases associated with miners.
Ramazzini's work was soon followed by others. In 1775 Percivall Pott published a work on the diseases of chimney sweeps. Charles Turner Thackrah published an extensive study of industrial illnesses and poverty in 1831. Regardless of the proof of these various pamphlets, dissertations, and full studies, it was not until 1895 that Great Britain became the first country to introduce statutory notification of occupational diseases.
Certainly Ramazzini can be credited with awakening the medical community to the need to protect workers from any hazards they may encounter from their occupation or their occupational environment. He can also claim credit for ensuring that health emergencies related to occupation or occupational environment are understood and dealt with in a healthy and accurate manner. Industrial medicine, factory and safety laws, and the eventual introduction of the treatment of occupational diseases into workers' compensation laws can surely be traced back to Ramazzini and his De Morbis Artificum Diatriba.
Ramazzini died on November 5, 1714, in Padua, Veneto, Italy.
New Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th ed., Helen Hemingway Benton, 1973-1974.
Lancet, September 4, 1999.
"Occupational Disease," Hutchinson Dictionary of Science, 1998, accessed through Electric Library Personal Edition,http://wwws.elibrary.com/ (January 18, 2001).
"Ramazzini, Bernardino," Columbia Encyclopedia, 5th ed., 1993, accessed through Electric Library Personal Edition,http://wwws.elibrary.com/ (January 18, 2001).
"Ramazzini, Bernardino," Encyclopaedia Britannica,http://Britannica.com.htm (January 17, 2001). □
"Bernardino Ramazzini." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bernardino-ramazzini
"Bernardino Ramazzini." Encyclopedia of World Biography. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/bernardino-ramazzini
An Italian physician and philosopher, Bernardino Ramazzini (1633–1714) graduated with a degree in medicine from Parma in 1659, and became professor of medicine at Modena in 1682 and at Padua in 1700. He wrote many books on aspects of medicine, the most famous of which, written in 1700, is De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (Diseases of workers). This was the first systematic treatise on occupational diseases, and for this achievement Ramazzini is remembered as the father of occupational medicine and hygiene. Ramazzini's book is a descriptive account of working conditions in more than fifty occupations and of the diseases of workers in these occupations. Included were miners, potters, glassblowers, painters, privy cleaners, corpse handlers, midwives, makers of wine and beer, stonecutters, standing and sedentary workers, voice trainers, singers, farmers, fisherman, and many others. Ramazzini's observations were accurate and precise, although he provided no numerical information and made statements implying rather than expressing levels of risk, so readers could not determine, for example, whether pottery was a safer occupation than knife grinding. His accounts remain a good model for occupational health, and they also provide a valuable vignette of the social history of the working classes at the time of the Renaissance.
John M. Last
(see also: Occupational Disease )
"Ramazzini, Bernardino." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ramazzini-bernardino
"Ramazzini, Bernardino." Encyclopedia of Public Health. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/education/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ramazzini-bernardino
Bernardino Ramazzini (bārnärdē´nō rämät-tsē´nē), 1633–1717, Italian physician. He was professor at Modena (1682–1700) and at Padua until 1714. He is often called the father of industrial medicine, and his De Morbis Artificium was the first systematic exposition of occupational disease. Ramazzini saw the relationship between various metals and the symptoms of metallic poisoning that developed in the artisans who worked with them, and he recognized that paints were a factor in the poisoning of painters. He also made studies of diseases in other occupations (e.g., lung diseases of miners, eye conditions of printers). Although most physicians of that period prescribed cinchona bark (the source of quinine) for every type of fever, Ramazzini opposed such indiscriminate use of the drug and correctly reserved it for the treatment of malarial attacks only. He was also an epidemiologist; he described several plagues that occurred in his region.
"Ramazzini, Bernardino." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 27, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ramazzini-bernardino
"Ramazzini, Bernardino." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved July 27, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/ramazzini-bernardino