Ramazzini vs. Moneglia: medicine’s ‘terrible controversy’

Franco Carnevale


Ramazzini was called to the bedside of a patient in Modena, a marchioness who, only a few hours after giving birth, lay in very grave condition. After the new mother’s death, Ramazzini reconstructed an epicrisis, which was eventually read by Moneglia in Florence. The latter physician harshly condemned the fact that no surgical remedy had been undertaken, and when his widely circulated opinion became known, Ramazzini responded by publishing the “censure” together with his reply that, rather wittily, took a stand diametrically opposite. Moneglia replied, insisting upon the ineptitude of his adversary, who then fired back with a flood of authoritative citations upholding all of his arguments. This provoked yet another censure from Moneglia, growing ever more ironic in tone, to be followed by a fourth response which was written two years after the original medical incident, but which was not published until 1758. The total number of publications instigated by this “terrible controversy” reached sixteen; of these, six are anonymous . Although the clinical history in question opened up a deep, unresolved rift that continues to polarize opinions, the records from that controversy provide invaluable information about these physicians and their times.


controversy; Ramazzini; Seventeenth Century

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