Filippo Bottazzi

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Bottazzi, Filippo

(b. Diso, Apulia, Italy, 23 December 1867; d. Diso, 19 September 1941)


Bottazzi received the M.D. in Romed i 1893. Early the following year, he became an assistant in physiology at the Institute of Higher, Practical, and Postgraduate Studies of Florence (now the University of Florence), and in 1896, Privatdozent in physiology. In 1902 he was appointed director of the Institute of Physiology of the University of Genoa, and in 1905, director of the Institute of Physiology of the University of Naples. While in Naples he was actively engaged in research at the Zoological Station, and from 1915 to 1923 he was director of its department of physiology.

Through his association with his teacher Giulio Fano, Bottazzi belonged to the physiological school of Luigi Luciani, which, with the school of Angelo Mosso, was at that time the most important in Italy. Bottazzi’s work in physiology is distinguished by its close relationship to biological and physical chemistry. This relationship became evident in his Elementidi chimica fisica (1906) and his Trattato di chimica fisiologica (1898–1899), which for decades were the standard works on the subjects inItaly. Their recognition abroad is attested by H. Boruttau’s German translation, Physiologische Chemie für Studierende und Ärzte (1901).

In 1894 Bottazzi’s earliest investigations demonstrated the diminution of the osmotic resistance experiened by the red corpuscles as they travel through the splenic cycle: this is the hemocatatonistic function of the spleen, which is a part of the wider function of the splenic hemocatheresis and, more generally, of the endothelial reticulum.

A similar chemicophysical basis was demonstrated by his research on the osmotic pressure of the organic liquids, which Bottazzi explorded in nearly all classes of animals, from the invertebrates to man (and in the case of man, also in a variety of physiological and pathological conditions). He arrived at the conclusion that homeo-osmosis—that is, the constancy of the osmotic pressure of the milieu intérieur (blood and interstitial liquids)—must be considered a relatively late philogenetic acquisition. Homeo-osmosis does not occur in aquatic invertebrates or in cartilaginous fishes, animals whose internal liquids are nearly in osmotic equilibrium with the water of the external environment. In the teleost fishes there is the beginning of a limited or conditioned osmotic independence of the external environment. In all other vertebrates, starting with the amphibians, the osmotic pressure of the blood becomes an absolute physical constant, like the body temperature of birds and mammals. Therefore, Bottazzi distinguished between homeo-osmodtic poikilosmotic animals, in much the same way that one distinguishes between homeothermic and poikilothermic animals.

The same broadly comparative criterion that was adopted in these incerstigations was also used in those that Bottazzi and his collaborators conducted on the smooth and striated muscles. Thanks to this work, Bottazzi was able to attribute an essentially tonic function to the sarcoplasm, that is, to the part of the muscle cell that is not differentiated into myofibril. According to the theory formulated by Bottazzi, the fibrillar formations serve for the rapid clonic contraction, while the sarcoplasm serves for the slow and sustained tonic contraction. Therefore, the more readily a muscle attains tonus, the more sarcoplasm it contains (following this decreasing scale: smooth muscle, red striated muscle, and pale striated muscle). The sarcoplasm, which is less irritable and slower to contract, carries out the simple function of tone. The fibrillar anisotropic substance, which is more irritable, is capable of rapid movements and usually is more fully developed, depending on how quickly the muscle reacts to stimuli.

In the area of practical studies, special mention must be made of Bottazzi’s research on the physiology of nutrition. This work was presented in Fisiologia dell’alimentazione con speciale riguardo all’alimentazione delle classi povere (1910), written with G. Jappelli, and L’alimentazione dell’uomo (1919).

Bottazzi translated Michael Foster’s Treatise on Physiology in 1899. He and Foster, who in 1894 invited him to teach a practical course on physiology for advanced students at Cambridge, shared a keen interest in the history of science. The main results of this interest were numerous studies that Bottazzi wrote on Leonardo da Vinci from 1902 to the eve of his death, and the new national edition of the works of Lazzaro Spallanzani (1932–1936).


I. Original Works. Bottazzi’s writings include Trattato di chimica fisiologica, 2 vols. (Milan, 1898–1899), trans. by H. Boruttau as Physiologische Chemie für Studierende und Ärzte (Leipzig-Vienna, 1901); Trattato di fisiologia, 4 vols. (Milan, 1899), a translation of Michael Foster’s Treatise on Physiology; Elementi di chimica fisica (Milan, 1906), with G. Jappelli; Fisiologia dell’alimentazione con speciale riguardo all’alimentazione delle classi povere (Milan, 1910); and L’ alimentaziobe dell’ uomo (Naples, 1919). He was also an editor of the new national edition of Le opere di Lazzaro Spallanzani, 6 vols. (Milan, 1932–1936).

II. Secondary Literature. A fundamental source for this article was Pietro Rondoni’s “Filippo Bottazzi,” a discerning commemoration of the man and his work, in Annuario della Reale Accademia d’Italia, 14 (1941–1942). 156–169. Complete lists of Bottazzi’s writings, with brief biographical sketches, are in Annuario della Reale Academia d’Italia, 1 (1929), 87–102; and in Annuario della Pontificia Accademia delle scienze, 1 (1936–1937), 159–185.

Luigi Belloni

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Bottazzi, Filippo (1867-1941)

Professor of physiology and director of the Physiological Institute at the University of Naples where his work in physiology was distinguished by its close relationship to biological and physical chemistry. Bottazzi was born in Apulia, Italy, on December 23, 1867. He received his higher education in Rome, becoming an M.D. in 1893. He began his distinguished career as an assistant in physiology at the Institute of Higher, Practical, and Postgraduate studies of Florence (now the University of Florence).

Bottazzi became a member of the pioneer Italian psychic re-search organization, Societa di Studi Psichici, founded in 1901. Bottazzi held sittings with the famous medium Eusapia Palladino in 1907. The manifestations, witnessed in the presence of professors De Amicis, Scarpa, and Pansini, were controlled by instruments. Bottazzi became convinced of the reality of the physical phenomena and declared, "The certitude we have acquired is of the same order as that which we attain from the study of chemical, physical or physiological facts." Two years later, he published his findings in Fenomeni Medianici.

In Botazzi's later years he taught the history of science at Cambridge University and went on to do numerous studies on Leonardo da Vinci until his death on December 19, 1941 in Diso, Italy.


Gillispie, Charles Goulston, ed. Dictionary of Scientific Biography. 16 vols. New York: Scribner, 1970-80.