Free for members: A new History Office publication

Thu, 14 Jul 2016 • Loek Keizer

The EAU History Office is proud to launch a new addition to its Classical Library range of books. Prof. Sergio Musitelli (Milan, IT) completed work on a 200-page volume On The Foundation of Modern Urology, a book that offers a reproduction of original 17th century medical texts, an annotated transcription and a translation into English.

The findings of Lorenzo Bellini, Marcello Malpighi and Giovanni Afonso Borelli on the function of various organs, kidneys in particular give insights into the earliest discoveries in the human body. Musitelli’s characterful translation and annotations provide historical context and a modern perspective as one consults the original texts.

Prof. Musitelli is one of the historical experts of the EAU’s History Office, which is otherwise largely made up of urologists with an interest in the history of their field. His affiliation with the EAU and its History Office stretches back to 1992. Musitelli acted as historical advisor for the 1st International Congress on the History of Urology in Fiuggi, Italy in 1992.

A career in classicsSergio Musitelli was born in Milan in 1928, and he attained his Ancient Arts and Graeco-Roman degree in 1951. He specialised in Classical Philology, in Glottology and Indian Literature and Languages (amongst others in Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit, Hindi, Sindi, Hindustani), in Egyptology and in Romance Philology. Musitelli lectured on Greek Languages and Literature at the University of Milan for ten years.

He collaborated with the famous Historians of Medicine Luigi Belloni and Felice Grondona, who charged him with translating nearly all the Greek and Latin medical texts from Hippocrates to the 19th century. He then devoted himself to the History of Ancient Science in general and of Medicine in particular. He was Visiting Professor of Urology, Sexology and Andrology at the University of Pavia from 1992 to 2004, when he retired from teaching.

Since retiring, Musitelli still studies and works as a Historian of Science in general and of Urology in particular. He has published about 250 scientific contributions (articles, books, etc.) in both English an Italian and has devised the EAU Classical Library, inaugurating its series with the first volume: Mariano Santo’s Libellus aureus de lapide a vesica per incsionem extrahendo (1998).

The FoundationProf. Musitelli’s latest work is based on 17th century treatises from Italian academics of the age. Malpighi held the chair of Theoretical Medicine first in Pisa, then in Bologna till 1662, when he reached Messina to hold the Primary chair of Medicine.

He went back to Bologna in 1666 and in 1691 moved to Rome, where he died in 1692. Borelli, was the chair of Mathematics first in Messina (1635-1646), then in Pisa. Bellini was one of both Borelli’s and Malpighi’s disciples. Bellini held the chair of Anatomy in Pisa.

On the Foundation compiles two treatises (Bellini and Malpighi), one chapter of Borelli's De Motu Animalium and two of Malpighi's letters to his master Borelli. These works were intended for contemporary anatomophysiologists and mention several discoveries.

Musitelli reflects on the contents of these works: “These fundamental discoveries, that paved the way for our modern Urology were: Berengarius of Carpi’s discovery of the ‘papillae’; Bellini’s discovery of the so-called ‘ductus belliniani’ (the ‘ducts of Bellini’) and Malpighi’s discovery of both the so-called ‘Malpighian pyramids’ and what we call ‘nephron’.”

“Berengario, Bellini, Malpighi and Borelli started our modern knowledge of the anatomy of the urinary apparatus, i.e. our modern understanding of the kidney and our ‘modern Urology’, although none of the writers –despite their unquestionable genius– could give any reasonable contribution to the knowledge of “uropoiesis”, owing to the lack of even the faintest idea of chemistry, which was only started by Lavoisier more than one century later.”

Considering the implications of these texts for modern-day urology, Musitelli concludes: “The Foundation tells us that the origins and development of Urology as we know it today was the marvellous consequence of the application of the ‘quantitative’ perception of the phenomena inaugurated by the Galilean scientific revolution”, which started all the branches of our modern Science.”

Musitelli came across the historical sources that were translated and analysed in his Foundation thanks to the long and exceptionally fruitful collaboration with aforementioned medical historians Belloni and Grondona, who instructed him to find, to read, analyse and translate nearly all the medical and surgical works from Hippocrates (V-IV century B.C.) to the 19th century, Malpighi, Bellini, Borelli, Fontana, Galvani, Volta etc. included. Many of these texts can be found in the two big volumes Selected Passages on Urological Surgery, also published in the EAU Classical Library.

On the Foundation of Modern Urology can be found in UROsource, the EAU's content and learning library. After logging in, EAU members can access the book for free. Many other books on the History of Urology are available in UROsource, often free of charge for EAU members.