We usually think of science and humanities as separate worlds. Of course, and methods of investigation and construction of knowledge differ: but the links, more or less hidden, are not scarce, and indeed allow us to better understand reality.
Of all the sciences, the most “humanistic” is perhaps the Medicine, which has as its object the health of the body (and psyche) of men and women. It maintains close relationships with the “hard” disciplines – mathematics, physics, chemistry, computer science and so on – but is also intertwined with history, law, sociology, literature, art. In all its forms, for millennia, it has struggled to subtract life from death: it is therefore linked to hopes of human beings, of individuals as well as of the community.
In this sense, I would like to point out a revealing and fascinating book, Luigi Bolondi Congratulations Volume (Milan, Mimesis, 2021). Named after a distinguished exponent of the Medical School of the University of Bologna, it is the gift that colleagues and friends offer him for his 70 years old in recognition of an admirable career. There are 25 essays, in Italian and English, ranging from the most advanced medical research to the history of medicine, literature, law, and in so doing they give an overview of the broad cultural interests of the celebrated.
Who is the birthday boy? Fabio Piscaglia, Professor of Internal Medicine in Bologna, draws a synthetic picture of the scientific and organizational activity of this “far-sighted pioneer”, one of the founders of ultrasound semeiotics. Twenty-eight, Bolondi published Ultrasound in gastroenterology, essential reference for Italian and foreign doctors. He outlined the international guidelines for the use of ultrasound doppler of the hepatic portal system and ultrasound with contrast of the liver, techniques of great impact on abdominal surgery.
Leader in the field ofepatocarcinoma, was among the promoters of the first consensus conference international on the clinical management of this disease. In the nineties he designed a multidisciplinary scientific laboratory, built in Bologna in the Applied Biomedical Research Center (Crba), in competition with the best equipped laboratories on the planet. He founded the first Italian Society of Ultrasound and devised a day service who took care of patients who passed through the emergency room, but of medium severity.
Some contributions in the volume presuppose advanced medical knowledge. This is the case of the futuristic research on the “transduction of the dependent inositide signal in the nucleus”, or on the “genetics and genomics of human populations” and “evolutionary medicine”: the disease should be analyzed not only in its proximate causes, but also in the light of “Phylogenetic history of man written in his genome”, as well as of adaptations of the body to the environment.
Other essays are within the reach of the non-specialist reader. I would like to point out only a few. A doctor and an Iranian, Maurizio Alberani and Antonio Panaino, return to the case of Democedes of Crotone, Greek physician, slave of the Persians, whom King Darius preferred to Egyptian physicians. The two scholars, in a compelling discourse woven on their respective skills, demonstrate how a very painful accident caused Dario a “relatively benign” fracture of the talus, and not complete dislocation. Not treated immediately, this would have in fact led the bone to aseptic necrosis; and it would have been unthinkable that a king, in his long reign, would manifest such an accentuated motor deficit: the story handed down by Herodotus it was therefore probably inflated.
The classicist Renzo Tosi lists Greek and Latin proverbs about doctors and medicines. Some have come down to us, “Divinum est sedare painm” (it is divine to quell pain), “Prima digestio fit in hours” (the first digestion takes place in the mouth), “Si fore vis sanus, ablue saepe manus” (if want to be healthy, wash your hands often): essential in times of pandemics.
There is no shortage of legal essays. Giusella Finocchiaro, Professor of Internet Law and Private Law, discusses a hot topic – the treatment of personal data in the health sector – which involves delicate legal issues: their protection, the right to health, the efficiency of the public administration. The cardiologist from Ferrara Claudio Rapezzi, a passionate reader of detective novels, draws a tasty analogue picture between clinical method e investigative method: the doctor aims to identify the disease, the detective the killer, must therefore possess qualities similar to those variously exhibited by Auguste Dupin, Sherlock Holmes, Miss Marple, Hercule Poirot, Inspector Maigret, Lieutenant Colombo, down to the Dr. House. In formulating a diagnostic orientation, the clinician must know how to interpret the congruences and inconsistencies between the individual examinations and the semiological findings: “to value what is there, but also what is missing, and then restart by correcting the error”.
Beautiful volume, this for Luigi Bolondi, exponent of excellence in Medicine, to whom so many patients bring immense gratitude.