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Research Article Open Access
Along with mechanics and astronomy, medicine played an important role at the beginning of the sixteenth century in the process that led to a new understanding of measurement and its importance for the progress of knowledge. A pivotal figure in this sense can be considered the Italian physician Santorio Santori (1561-1636) who, with his work Ars de statica medicina (Venice 1614), originated an entire path of experimental procedure across the Europe. Santorio was quite aware of the modern idea of experimentation as he experimented daily for over twenty five years. For the sake of scientific certainty, he felt also the need to devise and construct new instruments, such as the ‘weighing chair’ (statera medica), the hygrometer, the first graded thermometer, and the ‘pulsilogium’ (an early pulsimeter). Through these devices he managed to assess each of the many parameters involved in the complex calculation of the perspiratio insensibilis (insensible perspiration of the body). Relying on his quantitative experiences, Santorio envisaged the body as a clockwork, and explored its main functions by means of mathematical parameters (numero, pondere et mensura). As part of a major international project devoted to investigating the Emergence of Quantifying Procedures in Medicine at the End of the Renaissance, funded in 2015 by the Wellcome Trust and hosted by the Centre for Medical History (CHM) of the University of Exeter, this paper explores some aspects of the legacy of the Italian scientist.
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