Necropsy reports and anatomo-pathological observations from the archives of the Grand Ducal Medici family of Florence. Part I – The 16th century

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Raffaele Gaeta
Valentina Giuffra

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Abstract

During the Renaissance and Early Modern Age dissection began to be practiced for medico-legal purposes, in order to investigate the causes of death. In particular, during the 15th century evidences of autopsies performed by doctors on their private patients emerge. These dissections were requested by those families who can afford the expenses, in order to search the possible presence of hereditary diseases and to predispose a prevention and cure. The diffusion of this practice is attested also by the work of Antonio Benivieni (1443-1502), who is considered a pioneer of the pathological anatomy. The extremely rich documentary archives of the Medici family, one of the most important family of the Italian Renaissance, report several description of necropsies carried out on the bodies of the members of the family. The analysis of these reports offers important direct information on the autopsy practices performed by court surgeons of the members of an aristocratic class in a period comprised between the 16th and the first half of the 18th century, and allows in some cases also to propose a retrospective diagnosis on the diseases that afflicted the Medici. In this paper the analysis will be focused on the evidences about autopsies carried out during the 16th century. An evolution through time can be observed, as from the first very brief notes at the beginning of the period the reports become more detailed and accurate at the end of the century.

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