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Gerbezius, Marcus

Gerbezius, Marcus

also known as Marko Gerbee

(b. St. Vid, near Stičwna, Slovenia, 24 October 1658; d. Ljubljana, Slovenia, 9 March 1718)


Gerbezius was born into a family in modest circumstances, and it was only through a government scholarship that he was able to obtain a higher education. He first studied philosophy in Ljubljana, then medicine in Vienna, Padua, and Bologna, where he obtained the doctorate in philosophy and medicine in 1684. Gerbezius is one of the forty former students of the University of Padua whose portraits hang in the historic Sale dei Quaranta.

After returning to his native country Gerzebius was named chief physician of the province of Carniola and became he most sought-after practitioner in Ljublijana. Barely four years following receipt of his doctorate he was admitted to the Academia Leopoldian Naturae Curisorum, to which he sent, from 1689 until his death, a great many medical, meteorological, and zoological observations. Gerbezius was also a founding member of the Academia Operasorum in Ljubljana (1701). In 1712-1713 he was president of this small learned society, which played quite a large role in the cultural development of Slovenia.

Although attracted to Bologna by the teaching of Marcello Malpighi, Gerbezius was not converted to the iatromechanist doctirne; nor was he fully aware of the proper importance of the orientation toward anatomy of contemporary Italian medicine. His own views are a mixture of Dutch and German iatrochemical ideas with English neo-Hippocratic ideas. Gerbezius stressed the importance of a minute clinical examination devoid of preconceptions. He published the first detailed observation of an aurichuloventricular block (1692). It occurred in a ninety-year-old woman suffering from spells of dizziness and finting. Gerbezius described the particulars of her pulse so well that it is possible to make a retrospective diagnosis of the Adams-Stokes syndrome. In 1717 Gerbezius observed two patients afflicted with the same illness— one with a complete and permanent block, the other with an intermittent block. George Cheyne described this syndrome in 1733, as did G.B. Morgagni in 1761. It must be emphasized that Morgagni cited Gerbezius’ publications with praise and recognized their priority.

Gerbezius also observed hypertrophy of the myocardium, exanthemaous typhus, malaria, removal of the spleen, mercury poisoning among miners, the harmful effect of wine on children, and the treatment of biliary disorders with mineral waters. In a series of publications he set forth, year by year, the relationships between meteorological and terrestrial factors, on the one hand, and clinical and epidemilogical aspects of diseases current in Ljubljana, on the other. He confirmed the majority of Thomas Sydenham’s conclusions and, emphasizing the importance of social factors, gave them even a broader meaning.

Gerbezius also carried out experimental investigations on the physical and chemical properites of the air and on fermentation. In his view, alcoholic and acetic fermentation were chemical processes induced by certain minuscule particles, “volatile bodies,” which escape from organic matter and are found suspended in the atmosphere.


I. Original Works. Gerbeziusʾ principal works are Intricatum extricatum medicum, seu tractatus de morbis complicates (Ljubljana, 1692 ; 2nd ed., Frankfurt am Main, 1713) ; Chronologia medica: I (Ljubljana, 1699); II (Ljubljana, 1700) ; III (Ljubljana, 1702) ; IV (Augsburg, 1705); V (Frankfurt, 1710) ; 2nd ed., I-V (Frankfurt, 1713)-the following years were published in Appendix ephemeridorum naturae curiosorum (1712-1718) ; and Vindiciae physico-medicae aurae Labacensis oder grundliche Verthadigung der laybacherischen Lufft (Ljubljana, 1710). In addition Gerbezius published seventy-nine articles in Miscellanea Academiae naturae curiosorum; a list of these articles can be found in J . J . Manget, Bibliotheca scriptorum medicorum veterum et recentiorum (Geneva, 1731). The first description of the auriculoventricular block is in “Pulsus mira inconstantia,” in Miscellanea Academiae naturae curiosorum, dec. 2, yr. 10(1692), observatio 63, pp. 115-118. An English trans. of the cardiological fragments is in R . H . Major, Classic Descriptions of Disease, 3rd ed . (Springfield, Mass ., 1945), pp. 326-327.

II. Secondary Literature. A detailed study of Gerbeziusʾ life and work is still lacking . All the previous publications on this subject are summarized in I . Pintar, “Dr. Marko Gerbec,” in Razprave. Slovenska akademija znanosti in umentnosti, classis IV. pars medica, 3 (1963), 1-40. See also H. Tartalija, “Der slowenische Arzt Dr. Marko Gerbec also Vorgänger der Fermentationslehre,” in Vortaä der Hauptversammlung der Internationalen Gesellschaft für Geschichte der Pharmazie (Rotterdam, 1963) (Stuttgart, 1965), pp. 173-180; and N. Flaxman, “The History of Heart-Block,” in Bulletin of the Institute of the History of Medicine, 5 (1937), 115-130.

M. D. Grmek

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