Taddeo Alderotti

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Taddeo Alderotti

c. 1223-1295

Italian Physician

Founder of a medical school in Bologna, Italy, Taddeo Alderotti was an early advocate of serious medical study and practice. It was because of his efforts that the city authorities extended to medical teachers and students the same legal status as that of their counterparts in law school.

Alderotti was born in Florence, perhaps in 1223, though estimates of his birth year vary from 1215 to 1233. In 1260, he began teaching medicine at Bologna, which during the preceding century had emerged as a center of learning for all of Europe. There Holy Roman emperor Frederick I Barbarossa (1123-1190) had established the first Western university in 1158, by which time the town had begun to develop a community of medical students.

Years later, Dante Alighieri (1265-1321) would describe Alderotti in his Divine Comedy as a "Hippocratist," or follower of Hippocrates (c. 460-c. 377 b.c.). The Greek "father of medicine" was indeed Alderotti's model, and like Hippocrates he sought causes for illness in science rather than religion—a revolutionary idea in the thirteenth century. He also reintroduced Hippocrates' practice of teaching medicine at the patient's bedside.

Among Alderotti's books was the Consilia, a series of case studies presented alongside medical opinions on each case. Also included was a record of the preventive measures applied by the physician, as well as both dietary and therapeutic treatments. Not only did Alderotti pioneer this type of medical literature, but he also wrote one of the first medical books in a modern language, the practical family physician's handbook Sulla conservazione della salute.

Much of Alderotti's work indicated that a reawakening was taking place in the European scientific community, whose curiosity had been held in check for many centuries; but it was equally clear that Alderotti was not simply taking up where the great physicians of the ancient world had left off. Forebears such as Galen (c. 130-c. 200) had been confronted with religious prohibitions against the dissection of cadavers, but by the late thirteenth century Christian laws proscribing such activities had been loosened. Alderotti's Expositio in arduum aphorismorum Hippocratis volumen contains descriptions of dissections and experiments in comparative anatomy performed by Alderotti and others.

After his death, Alderotti's legacy continued through students who became physicians and teachers, including the four Varignana brothers, Dino and Tommaso di Garbo, and Pietro Torrigiano Rustichelli—all ardent exponents of Galen. Alderotti also indirectly influenced Pietro de Tussignana (d. 1410) and Bavarius de Bavariis (d. c. 1480), court physician to Pope Nicholas V.