Luca Tonetti

Giorgio Baglivi’s fibre theory in 18th-century German medicine

Giorgio Baglivi’s position in the history of fibrillary theory from Francis Glisson to Albrecht von Haller has never been questioned. However, while recognizing Baglivi’s decisive role for the development of the idea of a “fibre body”, scholars do not explain why Baglivi was so important, how his theory influenced European debate—particularly, the controversy on Haller’s irritability/sensibility distinction—what conditions ultimately made it possible for his work to be repeatedly printed, read, and discussed during the 18th century.

In this project, I will consider, particularly, Baglivi’s legacy in German 18th-century medicine in order to see if Baglivi’s fibrillary theory may have fostered the distinction on irritability and sensibility, which Haller introduced in 1752 (De partibus corporis humani sensibilibus et irritabilibus) when he was professor at the University of Göttingen. As a consequence, I will examine which aspects of Baglivi’s theory have been questioned in the European controversy on irritability and sensibility in 1750-90. Finally, I will analyse also how the way of representing fibres has changed.