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Castaldi, Luigi

Castaldi, Luigi

(b. Pistoia, Italy, 14 February 1890; d. Florence, Italy, 12 June 1945),


Castaldi was the son of Vittorio Castaldi, an army officer, and of Vincenza Giovacchini-Rosati. He attended school in Pistoia and then studied medicine in Florence; after graduating in 1914, he became a physician at the Santa Maria Nuova Hospital in Florence before serving as an army medical officer in the war against Austria. In 1919 he was appointed assistant at the Institute of Human Anatomy of Florence, where Giulio Chiarugi was director and where he had worked while a student. In 1922 he began to teach human anatomy and in 1923 was named professor of human anatomy at the University of Perugia. He was appointed professor of anatomy at the University of Cagliari in 1926 and was kept there, against his wishes, until 1943 because he was at odds will the Fascist government. After Mussolini’s fall he obtained a transfer to the University of Genoa, but the political and military situation obliged him to remain in Florence, where he died after a long illness.

Castaldi began his scientific activity as a histologist with a systematic study of the connective tissue of the liver, “Il connettivo nel fegato dei Vertebrati” (1920), a work based on the microscopical examination of the liver of forty-one species (including man) and developed through the critical revision of an extensive bibliography (300 works). This book was used as a text for some years because of its illustrations of the capillaries of the liver.

Even in neurology, with his work on the mesencephalon (1922–1928), Castaldi paid homage to more traditional descriptive morphology. Influenced by a concern for so-called postencephalitic parkinsonism, then very common and characterized by interference with voluntary movement, Castaldi was induced to reexamine the anatomical knowledge of the mesencephalon. For this purpose he decided to compare the descriptions by different authors with its development in a single species (Cavia cobaya). Castaldi’s was the most precise and documented work on the structure of the mesencephalon then known. He clarified the structure of the corpora and brachia quadrigemina, the nuclei of the oculomotor nerve, the lateral and medial lemnisci, the red nucleus, the substantia nigra, and the cerebral peduncle. In addition, he confirmed the validity of Beccari’s observations on the so-called tegmental centers: they also are very well developed in the mesencephalon. Castaldi illustrated their importance for extrapyramidal motility in his exhaustive 1937 report to the Italian Society of Anatomy on the extrapyramidal pathways of the central nervous system.

Castaldi also carried out remarkable experimental work on the influence of the endocrine gland on morphogenesis. Working from the demonstrated role of iodine deficiency in cretinism and goiter, from 1920 to 1928 Castaldi studied the histology of human thyroid glands from areas where goiter occurred and from those where it did not. Thus he confirmed the strict relationship between the iodine content of the thyroid and its activity and established its influence on the development and height of man. Castaldi also studied the physiology of the adrenal cortex. From 1924 to 1926 he analyzed the effects on very young animals (Cavia cobaya) of dried, salted adrenal cortex taken from an ox and administered with the food. He thereby confirmed that the adrenal cortex can stimulate growth of the muscular and skeletal systems.

Using the biostatistical methods of Adolphe Quetelet and Francis Galton, Castaldi in 1923 began his work on biometrical evaluation in man with the study of the weights of thymus glands in relation to age, sex, body weight, and height. In 1924 he repeated this research on ovaries and in 1927 (with D. Vannucci) extended the same study to the principal organs (heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, encephalon, thyroid, thymus, adrenals, hypophysis, testes, ovaries) of 300 corpses of both sexes and all ages. Their average values were related, in twenty-nine tables and twenty-five graphs, to average values of the external anthropometrical measurements.

Convinced that the traditional method of teaching anatomy by dissecting cadavers was insufficient, Castaldi also taught the morphology of the living man, seeking to show the morphology of the different constitutional types of the two sexes at various ages, Thus he could accurately trace the human growth curve and connect variations in early postnatal growth patterns with the different constitutional types of human adults established by Achille De Giovanni.


Castaldi’s early histological paper is “Il connettivo nel fegato dei Vertebrati,” in Archivio Italiano di Anatomiae di Embriologia, 17 (1920), 373–506 L. with 5 colored plates.

Among his books are Influenza della ghiandola tiroide sull’accrescimento corporeo (Milan, 1923); Accrescimento corporeo e costituzioni dell’uomo (Florence, 1928); Compendio pratico di anatomia umana, 3 vols. (Naples, 1931–1941); Trent’anni di vita della Società Italiana di Storia delle Scienze Mediche e Naturali (Siena, 1938); L’anatomia in Italia (Milan, 1939), a special number of Acta Medica Italica; Atlante cromomicrofotografico di splancnologia dell’ uomo e di altri mammiferi (Florence, 1939).

Papers on the thyroid are in Lo Sperimentale, 74 (1920)76 (1922), 78 (1924); Monitore Zoologico Italiano, 32 (1921); Archivio Italiano di Anatomia e di Embriologia, supp. 18 (1922); Scritti Biologici, no. 3 (Siena, 1928); and Rassegna Internazionale di Clinca e Terapia, 20 (1939).

The adrenal cortex is the subject of Archivio di Fisiologia, 20 (1922); Rendiconti Accademia dei Lincei, cl. sc. fis. mat nat., 5th ser., 33 (1924); Archivio Italiano di Anatomia e di Embriologia, 22 (1925); Revista Sudamericana de Endocrinologia, Immunologia y Quimioterapia, 9 (1926); Giornale del medico pratico, 11 (1928); Folia Clinica e Bioloóica (São Paulo), 2 (1930); and Bollettino della Accademia Medica Pistoiese, 5 (1932).

On the hypophysis, see Lo Sperimentale, 77 (1923).

The thymus is discussed in Monitore Zoologico Italiano34 (1923).

On the ovary, see Lo Sperimentale, 78 (1924).

The mesencephalon is treated in Lo Sperimentale, 76 (1922); Bollettino di Oculistica, 1 (1922); Archivio Italiano di Anatomia e di Embriologia, 20 (1923), 21 (1924), 23 (1926) 25 (1928); Rivista di Patologia Nervosa e Mentale, 29 (1924); and Scritti Biologici, no. 5 (Siena, 1930). His most important work in this area is “Il sistema nervosc motore dei centri e delle vie extrapiramidali,” in Monitore Zoologico Italiano, supp. 48 (1938), 11–58.

For his papers on biometrics and constitutional anatomy see Monitore Zoologico Italiano, 32 (1921), 34 (1923);Rivista Critica di Clinica Medica, 25 (1924); Lo Sperimentale, 78 (1924); Scritti Biologici, no. 2 (Siena, 1927).

In the history of medicine, see “Una centuria di rivendicazioni di priorita ad italiani in contributi scientifici nella medicina e chirurgia,” in La Riforma Medica (1929). See also “Filippo Pacini,” in Rivista di Storia delle Scienze Mediche e Naturali, 15 (1923); Bernardino Genga uno dei rivendcatori di Colombo e di Cesalpino per la scoperta della circolazione del sangue (Florence, 1941); I microscopi construiti da Galileo Galilei 1610–1630 (Florence, 1942); and Francesco Boi 1767–1860 prima cattedratico di anatomiaumana in Cagliari e le cere anatomiche fiorentine di Clemente Susini (Florence, 1947).

Other writings include Concezione moderna dell’ anatomia umana (Perugia, 1923); L’eredità Florence, 1925); Wilhelm Roux 1850–1924 (Florence, 1925); La figura umana in Leonardo da Vinci (Cagliari, 1926), see also Scritti Biologici, no. 2 (Siena, 1927), and Rivista di Storia delle Scienze Mediche e Naturali, 18 (1927); L’Uomo Sardo (Cagliari, 1932); Il problema estetico della maternità (Pistoia, 1935), see also Scritti Biologici, no. 10 (Siena, 1935); “Nel bicentenario della nascita di Luigi Galvani,” in La Riforma Medica (1937); In memoria di Dino Vannucci 1895–1937 (Cagliari, 1937), also in Scritti Biologici no. 13 (Siena, 1938); and L’Italia culla dell’anatomia classica (Cagliari, 1942), also in Rassegna Internazionale di Clinica e Terapia, 24 (1943).

Pietro Franceschini

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