Father Kircher was the Jesuit who made the first scientific museum. As the result of his general interest in things scientific he wrote a little book on the pest. In this book he stated in very clear terms the modern doctrine of the origin of disease from little living things, which he called corpuscles. Because of this Tyndall attributes to Father Kircher the first realization of the role that bacteria play in disease. Even more wonderful than this, however, was Father Kircher’s anticipation of modern ideas with regard to the conveyance of disease. He insisted that contagious diseases, as a rule, were not carried, as had been thought, by the air, but were conveyed from one person to another, either directly, or by the intermediation of some living thing. He considered that cats and dogs were surely active in conveying diseases, and he even reached the conclusion that insects were also important in this matter. His expressions with regard to this are not of the indefinite character which one often encounters in the supposed anticipation of important principles in medicine, but are very precise and definite…

All this, it may be said in passing, was within a few years after the trial of Galileo.

In this next century the Popes continued their special efforts to secure the greatest teachers of anatomy and physiology for their Roman medical school. One of the results was the appointment of Malpighi, whose name has deservedly become attached to more structures in the human body because of tissues which he first studied in detail, than any other man in the history of medicine. Malpighi represents the beginning of most of the comparative biological sciences, and his original observations upon plants, upon the lower animals, on fishes and then on the anatomical structure of man and the higher animals, stamp him as an investigating genius of the highest order. He was the personal friend of Innocent XI., who wished to have him near him at Rome as his own medical adviser, and besides desired the prestige of his fame and the stimulating example of his investigating spirit for the students of the medical school of the Sapienza. The closing years of Malpighi’s life were rendered happier, and his wonderful researches were as well rewarded as such work can be, by the estimation in which he was held at Rome.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s