Oddi, Ruggero

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(b. Perugia, Italy, 20 July 1864; d. Tunis, Tunisia, 22 March 1913)


The son of Filippo Oddi and Zelinda Pampaglini, Oddi spent four years at the University of Perugia, one at Bologna, and one at Florence, where he graduated in medicine and surgery on 2 July 1889. He remained as an assistant at the Physiology Institute in Florence (directed by L. Luciani) and made a study trip to the Experimental Pharmacological Institute at the University of Strasbourg (directed by Oswald Schmiedeberg), during which he isolated chondroitin sulfate from the amyloid substance. In January 1894 Oddi was appointed head of the Physiology Institute at the University of Genoa, from which he resigned on 1 April 1900 as the result of a complex series of events (reconstructed in 1965 by L. Belloni). This was followed by a short period as physician in the Belgian Congo, during which time his mental condition became more unbalanced, partly as a result of his using narcotics.

Oddi’s main contribution is the discovery of the sphincter of the choledochus, made at Perugia as a fourth-year medical student (1886–1887). Intent on studying in vivo the action of bile on the digestion, he had the idea of obtaining an uninterrupted flow of bile into the duodenum by removing the reservoir. In a dog that had been cholecystectomized some time before, he was surprised to observe a marked dilatation of the bile ducts, which led him to suppose “that at the outlet of the choledochus into the duodenum there was a special device which allowed the flow of bile only at certain times, preventing it at others, so that the bile, no longer accumulating in the gallbladder, but compelled to create a space in the larger bile ducts, thus caused their enormous dilatation.”

A subsequent series of refined morphological researches in various animal species allowed him to demonstrate, both at the outlet of the choledochus and at the outlet of Wirsüng’s duct, that there is a special sphincteral device that is largely independent of the muscular layers of the intestine.

Oddi also measured the tone of the sphincter of the choledochus by perfecting an experimental device substantially identical with that used today for the intraoperative manometry of the biliary ducts.


I. Original Works. Oddi’s writings include “Di una speciale disposizione a sfintere alio sbocco del coledoco,” in Annali dell’ Università Libera di Perugia, 2 (1886–1887), vol. I, Facoltà medico-chirurgica, 249–264 and pl. IX; “Effetti dell’estirpazione della cistifellea,” in Bullettino delle scienze mediche, 6th ser., 21 (1888), 194–202; “Sulla tonicitá dello sfintere del coledoco,” in Archivio per le scienze mediche, 12 (1888), 333–339; “Sul centro spinale dello sfintere del coledoco” in Lo Sperimentale, sec. biologica, 48 (1894), 180–191; “Sulla esistenza di speciali gangli nervosi in prossimitá dello sfintere del coledoco,” in Monitore zoologico italiano, 5 (1894), 216–219 and pl. IV; “Ueber das Vorkommen von Chondroïtinschwefelsäure in der Amyloidleber,” in Archiv für experimentelle Pathologie and Pharmakologie, 33 (1894), 376–388; “Sulla fisio-patologia delle vie biliari,” in Conferenze cliniche italiane dirette dal Prof. Achille de Giovanni…, 1st ser., I (Milan, n.d.), 77–124; L’inibizionc dal punto di vista fisio-patalagico, psicologico e sociale (Turin, 1898); and Gli alimenti e la loro funzione nella economia dell’organismo individuale e sociale (Turin, 1902). For other publications by Oddi, see the works by L. Belloni below.

II. Secondary Literature. See Luigi Belloni, “Sulla vita e sull’opera di Ruggero Oddi (1864–1913),” in Rendiconti dell’Istituto lombardo di scienze e lettere, Classe di scienze (B), 99 (1965), 35–50; and “Über Leben und Werk von Ruggero Oddi (1864–1913), dem Entdecker des Schliessmuskels des Hauptgallenganges,” in Medizin-historisehes Journal, 1 (1966), 96–109.

Luigi Belloni