Baccelli, Guido

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Baccelli, Guido

(b. Rome, Italy, 25 November 1830; d. Rome, 10 January 1916)

clinical medicine.

Baccelli, the son of Antonio Baccelli and Adelaide Leonori, studied in Rome. He graduated surgeon (1852) and physician (1853) from the Roman School of Medicine; he was appointed director of the Medical Clinic of Rome in 1863, and remained in that chair until his death. Of wealthy family, Baccelli had a youthful interest in politics, and from 1870 was active in public life. In 1875 he was elected a deputy of the Italian parliament. Loyal to the house of Savoy, Baccelli was always staunchly liberal in his political beliefs. He was Minister of Public Education three times (1881,1893,1898) and Minister of Agriculture, Commerce, and Industry (1901). In Rome, he advocated the repair of the Capitol, the Pantheon, and the Palatine, and conceived the beautiful Archeological Walk; he also founded the Gallery of Modern Art and promoted the draining of the Pontine Marshes. On the national level, Baccelli restored the autonomy of the Italian universities and reformed the system of primary education. He promoted agriculture, resolutely supported the idea of an armed nation, and used his political power to advance the cause of public health through legislation setting up programs to eliminate malaria and pellagra. In 1893, in collaboration with the noted surgeon Francesco Durante, he founded the widely read medical weekly II policlinico. Baccelli’s greatest achievement, however, was the founding of the Policlinico Umberto I, a medical center which was opened in Rome on 9 April 1906. A fascinating orator, Baccelli presided at the first congress of the Italian Society of Internal Medicine (Rome, 1888), and the Eleventh International Congress of Medicine (Rome, 1894).

Baccelli’s medical writings covered a variety of subjects. From 1863 to 1877 he studied heart diseases and pleural diseases, and in 1876 illustrated Gaucher’s disease. From 1866 to 1894 he studied malarial infection, demonstrating that such infection acts upon the erythrocytes.

Baccelli appreciated traditional therapeutics, but he was also one of the first supporters of oxygen therapy (1870). However, his major merit was “to have opened the way of the veins to the heroic drugs,” as he wrote. The first introduction of drugs into the veins of a living animal (1656, in a dog) was performed in Oxford by Sir Christopher Wren; previously, in the sixteenth century, Alessandro Massaria, teacher of practical medicine at Padua University, had proposed the same operation in man. But these facts were practically unknown when, in 1890, Baccelli first injected quinine chlorhydrate into a vein of a woman, thereby saving her from death by pernicious malaria. In 1906 Baccelli also announced positive results from the intravenous injection of strophantine in the treatment of grave heart failure.

Baccelli gave great impetus to the modern study of medicine, but he also acknowledged the importance of the ancient masters; in 1907, he was elected chairman of the committee that drafted the constitution of the Italian Society of the History of Medicine.


I. Original Works. Baccelli’s works include Ascoltazione e percussione nella Scuola Romana (Rome, 1857); Patologia del cuore e dell’aorta, 3 vols.(Rome, 1863–1866); La pettiroloquia afonetica e la diplofonia (Rome, 1864); II plessimetro lineare delta Scuola Clinica di Roma (Rome, 1866); De primitivo splenis carcinomate (Rome, 1876); Sulla trasmissione dei suoni attraverso i liquidi endopleurici di differente natura (Rome, 1877); “Le iniezioni endovenose di sali di chinino nella infezione malarica,” in La riforma medica, 6 (1890), 14–16; L’infezione malarica. Studi di Guido Baccelli 1866–1894 raccolti dal Dott. Zeri (Rome, 1894); “I discorsi inaugurali pronunciati dal Baccelli ai Congressi Nazionali di Medicina Interna,” in La clinica medica italiana, 45 (1906), 317–338; La via delle vene aperta aimedicamenti eroici (Rome, 1907).

II.Secondary Literature. Works relating to Baccelli include “Numero speciale in occasione delle onoranze a Guido Baccelli,” in II policlinico, 14 (8 April 1906); A. Baccelli, Guido Baccelli. Ricordi (Naples, 1931); L. Belloni, Do Asclepio ad Esculapio (Milan, 1959); A. Castiglioni, Storia della Medicina, II (Milan, 1948), 696–700; M. Di Segni, “II contributo italiano alle origini della trasfusione del sangue e della iniezione di medicamenti nelle vene,” in Bollettino dell’Istituto Storico Italiano dell’Arte Sanitaria, 10 (1930), 66–90 and 179–199; G. Gorrini, Guido Baccelli. La vita, I’opera, it pensiero (Turin, 1916), which contains a portrait of Baccelli and a complete inventory of his medical works; E. Maragliano, “Guido Baccelli clinico,” in II policlinico, 23 (1916), 217–262; A. Pazzini, La storia delta Facoltà Medica di Roma, 2 vols. (Rome, 1961); and G. Sanarelli, “Guido Baccelli uomo politico e medico sociale,” in Il policlinico, 23 (1916), 263–263.

Pietro Franceschini