The 􏰀clinic and measurement􏰁. The anthropometry of Achille De Giovanni (1838-1916)

Angelo Albrizio


Although anthropometry as a means of measuring the body had been practised since Antiquity, its use during the Renaissance remained mostly restricted to the realm of the figurative arts. It was only from the second half of the 18th century that anthropometry was adopted more widely, first by naturalists and then by anthropologists, in order to investigate man and his principal morphological characteristics. In the second half of the 19th century it came to be adopted by the medical world and indeed this paper examines the role of Achille De Giovanni, the father of constitutionalist medicine in Italy, in introducing anthropometry in the clinical practice for descriptive, preventive and therapeutic purposes. Using a series of anthropometric instruments and methods of measurement of his own invention, he devised a way of determining an individual's morphological worth. His ambition was to transform clinical medicine, with the help of numbers and measurements, from an empirical into an exact science.

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