Rima, Tommaso

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(b. Mosogno,Ticino, Switzerland, 11 December 1775; d. Venice, Italy, 26 February 1843)


After studying grammar and rhetoric at Locarno and Lugano, Rima went to Rome in 1793 for further studies, which he completed in 1798 with degrees in medicine and surgery. In 1799 he enlisted in the army as surgeon major, continuing his long military career until 1820.

From 1806 to 1810 he was head surgeon of the Sant’ Ambrogio Military Hospital in Milan, where in 1808 he became also acting professor of military surgery. On 1 January 1811 he was transferred to Mantua as head surgeon and professor of surgery; it was in the hospital there that he conducted his first experiments in the radical treatment of varices of the lower limbs. He was obliged to interrupt this research in 1812 when he was transferred to Ancona. This move marked the beginning of a long period during which his activities of health official took priority over those of surgeon. Discharged from military service in 1820, he became head surgeon at Ravenna and, in 1822, at Venice, where he remained until his death.

Rima’s fundamental contributions are the discovery of the blood reflux in varicose veins of the leg and the surgical procedure for the treatment of such veins, which he devised himself and used successfully. His innovation, rediscovered in 1891 by Friedrich Trendelenburg, still underlie the pathology and therapy of varicose veins. He also studied contagion of infectious diseases, in particular contagious ophthalmia.


I. Original Works. “Sulla cura radicale del varicocele,” in Giornale per servire ai progressi della patologia e della materia medica, 4 (1836), 398–416; and “Sulla causa prossima delle varici alle estremità inferiori, e sulla loro cura radicale,” Ibid., 5 (1836), 265–301; were separately reprinted as Cura radicale delle varici dedotta dalla causa prossima scoperta e dimostrata in due memorie lette nell’-Ateneo dal socio ordinario Tommaso Dr. Rima (Venice, 1838).

II. Secondary Literature. On Rima’s life and work, see Luigi Belloni, “Una ricerca del contagio vivo agli albori dell’Ottocento,” in Gesnerus, 8 (1951), 15–31; “L’autobiografia del chirurgo Tommaso Rima (Necrologia del Dr. T. Rima),” Ibid., 10 (1953), 151–186; and “Valvole venose e flusso centrifuge del sangue. Cenni storici,” in simposi clinici, 5 (1968), xlix-lvi; and Davide Giordano, Nel centenario della dottrina di Tummaso Rima su le varici (Venice, 1925).

Luigi Belloni