Struss (or Struthius), Józef

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(b Poznan, Poland, 1510; d. Poznan, 6 March 1568)


The son of Nicolas Strusiek, a wealthy comb manufacturer, Struss completed his primary education at the parish school of St. Mary Magdalene in Poznan, then went on to Lubranski College, a secondary school of arts. He next moved to Cracow, where in 1531, after seven years of study, he obtained a diploma in the seven liberal arts. In particular Struss had studied Greek and classical philosophy, subjects that then included material of a more strictly scientific nature, and thus was able to increase his knowledge of Aristotle’s mathematical and astrological works. At the same time he also studied medicine; but since the University of Cracow did not confer degrees in that subject, he went to Padua, where many Polish and German medical students completed their studies. Vesalius was his fellow pupil and later his teacher there.

Struss’s graduation in medicine on 26 October 1535 is recorded in documents preserved in the Old Archive of the University of Padua. He began to teach theoretical medicine at that university on 12 November and remained there until 1537, when he was asked to teach medicine at the University of Cracow, with the particular task of illustrating Galen’s De differentiis morborum for his students. Struss soon left Cracow; his precise destination is not known but he probably returned to Padua, since it was there, at about this time, that some of his works were published. About 1540 he was again in Poznan, where he had entered the court of Andrei Gorka, then the governor of Greater Poland. The following year he accompanied Gorka to Hungary on a mission of mediation between Ferdinand I of Hungary and Isabella, the widow of John Zápolya, king of Hungary, who was besieged in Buda. On this occasion Struss was called upon to treat both Isabella and Sultan Suleiman I. In 1545 he returned to Pozana, where he established a successful practice and became personal physician to King Sigismund Augustus.

Struss’s main work is Sphygmicae artis, an accurate clinicophysiological study of the pulse and its alterations; it was perhaps the first work in the history of medicine that suggested the pulse as a reliable source of clinical data and of diagnostic and prognostic information. The physiology on which Struss’s study is based is Galen’s, as are the plan and framework. But Struss maintained an independent judgment, often contradicting Galen’s teaching and following concepts and approaches that were entirely new. Sphygmicae artis is a classic example of the clinical concept of medicine that was then developing in Padua.

According to Manget (Biblioheca scriptorum medicorum . . ., XI [Geneva, 1731], 330) and other writers, the work was first published in 1540, but there is no trace of this edition; and it is more likely, also on the basis of internal evidence, that the first edition was produced at Basel in 1555. In addition to his editions and translations of various classical medical works of Galen and treatises, Struss also published literary works.


I. Original Works. Struss’s writings include Ad medicum hisce temporibus maximum atque celeberrimum D. Cyprianum de Lowicz de medica arte excellentis carmen elegiacum authore Josepho Struthio Posnaniense (Cracow, 1529); Sanctissimi Petris et Domini d. Joannis a Lasco archiepiscopi et primatis regni Epicedion elegiacis versibus confectum (Cracow, 1531); Sphygmicae artis iam mille ducentos annos perditae et desiderate libri V (Padua, 1540 [?]; Basel, 1555); and Giuseppe Struzio; Dell’arte sfigmica, C. Castellani and G. Invernizzi, eds. (Turin, 1961), which includes the Latin text, an Italian translation, an introduction, and notes on cardiology and on the history of medicine.

II. Secondary Literature. See H. Barycz, Historja Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego w epoce humanizmu (Cracow, 1935), 241–0242; W. Bugiel, Un célèbre médecin polonais au XVI siècle: Joseph Struthius (Paris, 1901); and G. Sterzi, Joesphus Struthius, lettore nello studio di Padova (Venice, 1910).

Carlo Castellani