Gagliardi, Domenico

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Gagliardi, Domenico

(b. Rome [?], Italy, 1660; d. Rome [?], ca. 1725)


There is little or no information on Gagliardi’s life. He was probably born in Rome or somewhere in the Papal States. The scanty information provided by biographers indicates that he was a professor of medicine at the University of Rome; but since his name does not appear in the rotoli, the lists of professors compiled each year for administrative purposes, such a statement cannot be considered reliably documented.

Gagliardi was also the protomedio of the Papal States, and of Rome in particular, a function in some measure similar to that of a chief provincial doctor, and he acquired great fame as a doctor and as an anatomist. His name is especially connected with anatomy, particularly the skeletal system, which he summarized in Anatome ossium novis inventis illustrata (1689). Gagliardi carried out morphological and microscopic investigations on human bones, using chemical reagents in order to bring out the fine structure; he also made comparative anatomical studies of the skull and vertebrae of man and calf.

His morphological and microscopic work was accompanied by anatomicopathologic research. His Anatome ossium novis contains the first description of a case of what is presumably tuberculosis of the bone. In order to emphasize the structure of bone lamellae, Gagliardi used solutions of various acid substances; on the basis of his results he proposed a theory that the “softening” of bones which he described was caused by the action of an “acid” present in the organism.

In 1720 Gagliardi had an opportunity to do a close study of the pneumonia epidemic raging in Rome; the interest of this study lies in the fact that, before G. B. Morgagni, it was anatomicopathological in approach and based on carefully conducted autopsies. He was also interested in medical deontology and in what today would be called scientific popularization. He warned patients against the activity of charlatans, who in papal Rome appear to have had a large following. Two volumes, dedicated to moral and deontological topics and written expressly for the layman, make very clear the limits of the art of medicine. Written in a richly erudite and very ponderous style, according to the taste of the times, these works are full of precepts for reaching an advanced age by following certain rules of hygiene and sanitation.

Gagliardi left a third book of a more strictly deontological character, in which he gave young doctors advice on correct professional behavior toward patients and many rules of a more strictly medicalscientific nature.


Gagliardi’s writings are Anatome ossium novis inventis illustrata (Rome, 1689); Idea del vero medico fisico e morale fermata secondo li documenti ed operazioni d’Ippocrate (Rome, 1718); L’infermo istruito nella scuola del disinganno (Rome, 1719); and De educatione filiorum (Rome, 1723).

Carlo Castellani