Guidi, Guido

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Guidi, Guido

also known as Vidus Vidius

(b. Florence, Italy, 10 February 1508; d. Pisa, Italy, 26 May 1569)

anatomy, surgery.

Guidi belonged through his father, Giuliano di Guido dei Guidi, to a family of physicians, and through his mother, Costanza, he was descended from the famous painter Domenico Ghirlandaio. A part of his success can be explained by his capacity to unite science and art harmoniously. After becoming a doctor of medicine Guidi practiced in Rome and Florence. In 1542 he went to Paris and Fontainebleau, bringing to Francis I two splendidly illustrated manuscripts containing the Greek transcription and Latin translation of several classic treatises on surgery. The illustrations in these manuscripts have long been attributed to Francesco Primaticcio, but they were very probably done by the painter Francesco Salviati and his pupils.

In Paris, Guidi was named royal physician and became the first professor of medicine at the Collége Royal. He lived in the private residence of Benvenuto Cellini, and it was there that he had his Chirurgia printed, one of the most beautiful scientific books of the Renaissance. Greatly envied by the Faculty of Medicine, Guidi had to leave Paris after the death of Francis I in 1547. His new patron, Cosimo I de’ Medici, named him professor of philosophy and medicine at the University of Pisa in 1548. At Pisa, Guidi carried out important anatomical investigations, recorded in a manuscript (Anatomia) composed around 1560, which is preserved in Cosimo I de’ Medici’s library. Guidi became a priest and was given the high church office of provost of Pescia. He was also the consul of the Academy of Florence.

In his Chirurgia of 1544 Guidi presents himself above all as a humanist anxious for the faithful restoration of classical knowledge. On the other hand, the Anatomia is the work of a scientist fully conscious of the Vesalian revolution and seeking his inspiration from nature. Unfortunately, this treatise was printed, under the title De anatome corporis humani, in a posthumous edition with hideous illustrations and maladroit additions by Guido Guidi, Jr., Guidi’s nephew. This explains the negative judgments of several historians of medicine and their claims that Guidi plagiarized Vesalius and Falloppio.

Guidi’s true merits can be established only after study of the original version of his anatomical work (MS II, III 32, Biblioteca Nazionale, Florence), a study which has not yet been made. Guidi certainly described the vertebrae, the cartilaginous structures, and the bones of the cranium better than any of his predecessors. His name is still attached to the canalis vidianus of the sphenoid bone and to the nerve that traverses this canal. Moreover, he made important and original studies of the mechanism of the articulations in the human body resulting from its vertical position in relation to the mechanism of the quadruped articulations. It is interesting to note that his anatomical work concluded with a group of experiments on living animals (for example, ligature of the blood vessels). The first professor of medicine at the College de France thus inaugurated the method of vivisection that was to bring such fame to that chair.

In his writing on practical medicine Guidi remained within classical Galenism. Nevertheless, this conservatism did not prevent him from describing a new childhood disease (chicken pox) or from inventing an original method for tracheotomy.


I. Original Works. The MSS of Guidi’s works are preserved in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (particularly MS. Lat. 6866), and in the Biblioteca Nazionale and Biblioteca Riccardiana, Florence. The most important of his works to be printed in his lifetime is Chirurgia e Graeco in Latinum conversa, Vido Vidio Florentino interprete, cum nonnulis ejusdem Vidij commentarijs (Paris, 1554). The posthumous writings prepared by Guido Guidi, Jr., are Universae artis medicinalis pars quae ad curationum morborum spectat (Frankfurt, 1596); Art medicinalis, 3 vols. (Venice, 1611), which contains the first printed edition of the treatise “De anatome corporis humani”; and Opera omnia medica chirurgica et anatomica (Frankfurt, 1668).

II. Secondary Literature. The older biographies are S. Salvini, “Guido Guidi consolo,” in Fasti consolari dell’ Accademia Fiorentina (Florence, 1717), pp. 115–123, and P. B., “Elogio di Monsig. Guidi,” in Elogi degli uomini illustri di Toscana, III (Lucca, 1772), 250–256. More recent publications are H. Omont, Collection des chirurgiens grecs avec dessins attribués au Primatice (Paris, 1908); W. Brockbank, “The Man Who Was Vidius,” in Annals of the Royal College of Surgeons of England, 19 (1956), 269–295; C. E. Kellett, “The School of Salviati and the Illustrations to the Chirurgia of Vidus Vidius,” in Medical History, 2 (1958), 264–268; and M. D. Grmek, “La période parisienne dans la vie de Guido Guidi anatomiste de Florence et professeur au Collège de France,” in Atti della VI biennale dello Studio Firmano (Fermo, 1965), pp. 191–200.

M. D. Grmek

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Guidi, Guido

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