Between artifice and competence: the composition of the medical consul- tations of Antonio Vallisneri

Benedino Gemelli


The Italian physician and scientist Antonio Vallisneri (1661-1730) is better known for his entomological and biological studies than for his practical activity in the field of therapy. Nevertheless, his medical consultations represent a very important document for medical practice at the beginning of the XVIIIth century. Details about Vallisneri's medical practice are not only to be found in the 40 consultations published in 1733, but also in manuscript collections. The full text of these consultations was already published in 1733 and provided a guide to all the main characteristics of Vallisneri's technical-professional and rhetorical strategies. Unpublished consultations in draft form also allow us to examine how such texts were written, beginning with an idea which is developed into a full publishable text. The starting-point of a medical consultation is the attempt to get a precise "idea of the illness". In this way it was not only possible to prescribe an adequate therapy, but also to reassure the assistant physician and to console the patient, who are both distant, reflecting Vallisneri's ability to understand the developments of the disease and of the suffering of the patient.

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