Caldani, Leopoldo Marcantonio

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Caldani, Leopoldo Marcantonio

(b. Bologna, Italy, 21 November 1725; d. Padua, Italy, 30 December 1813),

anatomy, physiology.

It was mainly in consequence of the work of Caldani that the initial, very powerful resistance to Haller’s doctrine of differential sensibility and irritability of animal tissues and organs was overcome in Italian physiological circles. (Despite Haller’s great reputation, that opposition was at first very powerful, in Italy as elsewhere.) Caldani completed his education in his native Bologna, receiving the Ph.D. and M.D. on 12 October 1750. After several years of further education and practical experience he became a professor of medicine in Bologna.

At this time Caldani was concerned mainly with his own animal experiments, which were designed to verify and amplify Haller’s findings. In connection with these experiments he first used an electric current to stimulate muscle tissue. His first publication, a report on seventy-three new experiments, was read at the end of 1756 to the Istituto delle Scienze in Bologna; it met with Haller’s approval but encountered stiff opposition from some of Caldani’s colleagues. Discouraged by the disputes that resulted, Caldani thought of leaving Bologna. He decided to remain, however, partly in consequence of Haller’s warning that to move abroad might entail his conversion—a prospect from which, as a devout Catholic, Caldani shrank.

To improve his knowledge of anatomy, Caldani spent the first months of 1758 in Padua with Morgagni, whom he hoped to succeed. It was somewhat unwillingly, though, that he returned to Bologna and resumed his advocacy of Haller’s teachings. Grateful for this support, Haller arranged Caldani’s election to membership in the Gesellschaft der Wissenschaften in Göttingen in 1759 and later sponsored him for membership in the Royal Society of London. In the fall of 1759 Caldani, following the schedule of rotation, took over the anatomical demonstrations in Bologna; these were followed in the early part of 1760 by public anatomical disputations.

In these disputations Caldani certainly had the scientific capability to defend himself against the attacks of Paolo Balbi and Tommaso Laghi, severe though they were. Nevertheless, he resigned from his teaching position and, although his means were slender, left his home for Venice. He had to wait until the summer of 1764 to be appointed at Padua as professor of theoretical medicine, specifically of Boerhaave’s theory. He alternately lectured on pathology and physiology; and from the beginning of 1773 he lectured on anatomy as well. Caldani was confirmed as Morgagni’s successor in the chair of anatomy at Padua by the Venetian senate on 11 November 1773. He prepared his lectures for the three books called Institutiones—the Institutiones physiologiae was often reprinted—which were written in the style of Haller; they were widely read because several universities introduced them as textbooks.

Most of Caldani’s later writings are more medical than biological. Toward the end of his life he published, with his nephew Floriano Caldani, a collection of anatomical drawings, some of which were made from their own preparations and some of which were drawings by others. He did not relinquish his professorial chair in Padua until 1805, when advanced age made it necessary to do so.


I. Original Works. Caldani’s writings include Sull’in-sensitività e irritabilità di alcune parti degli animali, lettera scritta al chiarissimo sig. Alberto Haller (Bologna. 1757), trans, as “Lettre de Mr. Marc Antoine Caldani à Mr. Albert de Haller sur l’insensibilité et l’irritabilité de quelques parties des animaux” in A. Haller. Mémoires sur les parties sensible et irritables du corps animal. III (Lausanne. 1760). 1–156; “Sur l’insensibilité et l’irritabilité dc Mr. Haller. Seconde lettre de Mr. Marc-Antoine Caldani,.” ibid., 343–485; Lettera terza del sig. dott. Leopoldo Marc’Antonio Caludani sopra l’irritabilità e sensitivityà halleriana (Bologna. 1759); Riflessioni fisiologiche sopra due dissertazioni del sig. Cladio Nicola Le Cat (Venice, 1767); Esame del capitolo settimo contenuto nella XII parte dell’ultima opera del chiarissimo sig. Antonio De Haen (Padua. 1770); Institutiones physiologiae (Padua, 1773); Icones anatomicae, quotquot sunt celebriores, ex optimis neotericorum operibus summa diligentia depromptae et collectae opera et studio…., 4 vols. (Venice, 1801–1813), written with his nephew Floriano Caldani; and Iconum anatomicarum explicatio, 5 vols. (Venice, 1802–1814).

II. Secondary Literature. Works on Caldani are Floriano Caldani, Memorie intorno alla vita e alle opere di Leopoldo Marco Antonio Caldani (Modena. 1822); “Cal-dani,” in Dezeimeris et al., Dictionnaire historique de lamédecine ancienne et moderne, I, pt. 2 (Paris, 1831), 595–600, with a complete list of publications; “Leopoldo Caldani,” in Pietro Capparoni, profili bio-bibliografici di medici e naturalisti celebri Italiani del sec. XV° al sec XVII°, II (Rome, 1928). 92–96; A. von Haller, Epistolarum ab eruditis viris ad Albertum Hallerum scriptarum Pars I Latine, IV–VI (Bern, 1774–1775); Erich Hintzsche, ed., Albrecht von Hallermarc Antonio Caldani: Briefwechsel 1756–1776 (Bern Stuttgart, 1966); and Giuseppe Ongaro, “Leopoldo Marc’Antonio Caldani e Albrecht von Haller.” in Atti del XXIII Congresso nazionale di storia della medicina (Modena 22–24 settembre 1967), also reprinted separately.

Erich Hintzsche;