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CLAUDIO POGLIANO

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title SUMMARY /title After a brief outline of the impressive expansion of physiology which took place in Europe during the Nineteenth century, the essay focuses on the developments occurred in Italy following the national unification. The main schools and exponents are considered, while an important common feature is seen in their broad philosophical attitudes and in their strong social bent. Furthermore, the essay suggests that Italian physiologists tried hard to hinder the process of growing specialization of medical knowledge and practice by claiming a sort of holistic approach to the bodily functions.

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CLAUDIO POGLIANO

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<title> RIASSUNTO </title>One of the members of the Académie des Sciences, biographed by Condorcet in his famous Éloges, was Marin Cureau de la Chambre, a physician and philosopher quite unknown nowadays, but nevertheless an interesting figure in XVII century French culture. His career in the medical service of the court was prompted by an early protection assured to him by the chancellor Pierre Séguier, and then reinforced by the fact that he stood high both in Richelieu's and in Mazarin's favour. A polymath, Cureau wrote at first some physical essays on various arguments ― the nature of light and of the rainbow, for instance ―, rather precociously claiming the right to use French in scientific matters. His major contribution, though, aimed to a thorough knowledge of man, i.e. of his propensities and passions, vices and virtues. In what he called L'Art de connoistre les hommes, classic physiognomy merged with other techniques, and with a peculiar, sort of hermetic worldview, into a new discipline, wich should have served in everyday life and in the management of public affairs as well.

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Lucky Triune Brain

Chronicles of Paul D. MacLean’s Neuro-Catchword

Claudio Pogliano

The triune brain idea has been rated as the most influential in post-war neuroscience. The first part of this article seeks to retrace its genesis and development through the vicissitudes of the research conducted by Paul D. MacLean (1913–2007). Ten years have passed since his death: despite the loss of scientific credit, the apparent simplicity of his tripartite theory continues to exert a certain popular appeal. In the second part of the article an attempt is made to figure out how the transfer from the laboratory to public fruition could happen. The man initially responsible for the operation was MacLean himself, then aided by a few followers who had the means to spread his message of salvation. Against the background of the Cold War, and while Western culture started to realize the threat posed by overpopulation, pollution, and the exhaustion of critical resources, they deluded themselves that “knowing the brain” might suggest new and more effective approaches to the troubles of the oncoming end of the century. Consulting MacLean’s papers in the archives at the National Library of Medicine (Bethesda, MD) has been essential to this historical reconstruction.

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Claudio Pogliano

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The historical process leading to the recent invention of endoscopic capsules that are swallowed and travel through the alimentary canal, or to virtual voyages inside the human body one of the last amazing digital technologies has been long and winding. This essay seeks to retrace some steps of that process, since the second half of the 18th century. Numerous medical practitioners, technicians, and instrument makers aimed to explore inner body parts and interspaces by means of the sense of sight. In the mid-19th century Endoscope was called the instrument that would allow to bring light into unknown recesses and visualize them; urethra and bladder were the organs at first investigated, but soon the medical gaze proceeded to penetrate the esophagus and the stomach, not without several obstacles to be overcome.