Santorio Santorio Biography (1561-1636)
Santorio Santorio, also known as Sanctorius, was born at Capodistria (now Italy) on March 29, 1561; he died in Venice on February 22, 1636. He was the founder of modern quantitative medical research. After graduating in medicine atthe University of Padua in 1582, Sanctorius began practice in Venice. In 1587, he was appointed physician to the King of Poland, in which capacity he remained for 14 years. Upon returning from Poland, he re-established his practice in Venice. In 1611, he was called to the Chair of Theoretical Medicine at the University of Padua, where he remained until his resignation in 1629 and return to practice and research in Venice.
Sanctorius was largely responsible for the entry of clinical observation andexperimental medicine into the physician's domain in the late sixteenth century. (His counterpart in England was William Harvey.) Sanctorius' introductionof the physical sciences into medical investigation has led to his being referred to as a principal architect of the iatrophysical school of medicine.
Sanctorius studied the process of metabolism by observing the weight fluctuations in his own body over the course of a day, and during various metabolic processes such as digestion, sleeping, and eating. To carry out these measurements, he used a set of specially constructed devices, including a balance scale, a pulse monitor (pulsilogium), a hydrometer to measure the moisture content in gas, and a chair suspended from a steelyard which was designed to measure what he referred to as insensible perspiration (which referred to the volatile substances that were supposed to leave the body). By weighing allthe food and drink that he ingested and all the excreta that he passed, Sanctorius obtained numerical measurements for his insensible perspiration. Through these experiments, Sanctorius introduced the quantitative aspect into medical research, and at the same time founded the modern study of metabolism.
It is, however, for the invention of one of the first thermometers that Sanctorius is best known (described in his commentary on the first book of the Canon of Avicenna in 1625, which also gave a description of how the instrument was to be used in studying diseases). Sanctorius's thermometer, like the onesdeveloped by Cornelius Drebbel, Robert Fludd, and Galileo at about the same time, consisted of an enclosed vessel containing air that contracted or expanded with the temperature, forcing water to move up or down a tube with arbitrary calibrations.
Other inventions for which Sanctorius is credited include an instrument for extracting bladder stones, a surgical device for the withdrawal of fluids frombody cavities (i.e., trocar and cannula), an instrument for removing foreignbodies from the ear, a hygrometer to measure humidity, and a device for bathing patients in bed. In 1602, Sanctorius made reference to an instrument forcomparing the rates of pulses that consisted of a pendulum attached to a string of variable length; the length of the string was adjusted until the beat of the pendulum coincided with that of the pulse. (Pulses were compared by comparing the lengths of string.)
Sanctorius's greatest inventions, i.e., his thermometer and pulse monitor, were eventually forgotten, only to be rediscovered 100 years later. Sanctoriusauthored Ars de statica medicina (On Statistical Medicine) in 1614, a work that reached its fifth edition in 1737. The frontispiece of thiswork shows Sanctorius seated in his chair suspended from a steelyard in the process of weighing himself after a meal; this plate has become a classic in the archives of medical illustration.