Santorio Santorio

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Santor Santorio
BornMarch 29, 1561
DiedFebruary 22, 1636(1636-02-22) (aged 74)
Alma materUniversity of Padua
Known forDiscoveries concerning metabolism and invention of technical instruments

Santorio Santorio (March 29, 1561 – February 22, 1636),[1] also called Sanctorio Sanctorio, Santorio Santorii, Sanctorius of Padua, Sanctorio Sanctorius[2] and various combinations of these names, was a Venetian physiologist, physician, and professor, who introduced the quantitative approach into the life sciences and is considered the father of modern quantitative experimentation in medicine. He is also known as the inventor of several medical devices. His work De Statica Medicina, written in 1614, saw many publications and influenced generations of physicians.[3][4]


Santorio's mother was a noblewoman from the Mediterranean coastal town of Capodistria (today Koper, in southwestern Slovenia, then part of the Republic of Venice), which is where she gave birth to him.[5] Santorio's father was a nobleman from Friuli working for the Venetian republic.

He was educated in his home town and then entered the University of Padua, from which he obtained his medical degree in 1582.[5]

Santorio died in Venice.[citation needed]


Santorio worked as the personal physician to a nobleman from 1587 to 1599, at which point he set up a medical practice in Venice.[citation needed]

From 1611 to 1624, Santorio was the chair of theoretical medicine at the University of Padua where he performed experiments in temperature, respiration and weight.[6]

His practices and thinking followed Hippocratic and Galenic principles, but he was a keen experimentalist.[5]


Santorio was the first to use a wind gauge, a water current meter, the pulsilogium (a device used to measure the pulse rate), and a thermoscope.[7] Whereas he invented the former two devices, it is possible that the puslilogium was inspired by his friend Galileo Galilei or Paolo Sarpi, both members of Santorio's learned circle of friends in Venice.[8]

A man sitting in a chair-like contraption attached to a scale above for weighing him.
Sanctorio sitting in the balance that he made to calculate his net weight change over time after the intake and excretion of food stuffs and fluids.

He also invented a device which he called the "trocar" (not identical to the modern trocar) for removing bladder stones.[9]

Santorio introduced the thermoscope in the work titled Sanctorii Sanctorii Commentaria in Artem medicinalem Galeni in 1612.[10]

The pulsilogium was probably the first machine of precision in medical history. Extensive experimentation with his new tool allowed Santorio to standardise the Galenic rationale of the pulse and to describe quantitatively various regular and irregular frequences.[11] A century later another physician, de Lacroix, used the pulsilogium to test cardiac function.[12]

Study of metabolism[edit]

Sanctorius studied the so-called perspiratio insensibilis or insensible perspiration of the body, already known to Galen and other ancient physicians, and originated the study of metabolism.[13] For a period of thirty years Santorio used a chair-device to weigh himself and everything he ate and drank, as well as his urine and feces. He compared the weight of what he had eaten to that of his waste products, the latter being considerably smaller because for every eight pounds of food he ate, he excreted only 3 pounds of waste.[14] Santorio also applied his weighing device to study his patients, but records of these experiments have been lost.[13]

His notable conclusion on finding this was that:

Insensible Perspiration is either made by the Pores of the Body, which is all over perspirable, and cover’d with a Skin like a Net; or it is performed by Respiration through the Mouth, which usually, in the Space of one Day, amounts to about the Quantity of half a Pound, as may plainly be made appear by breathing upon a Glass.[7]

This important experiment is the origin of the significance of weight measurement in medicine.[15] While his experiments were replicated and augmented by his followers and were finally surpassed by those of Lavoisier in 1790, he is still celebrated as the father of experimental physiology. The "weighing chair", which he constructed and employed during this experiment, is also famous.[12][14]

Grants named after Santorio[edit]

In 2018 the Italian Institution Institutio Santoriana – Fondazione Comel created the Centre for the Study of Medicine and the Body in the Renaissance (CSMBR) as an International Institution of advanced research in honour of Santorio. The centre offers each year various awards and grants for international scholars that are named after Santorio, such as the Santorio Award for Excellence in Research[16], and the Santorio Fellowship for Medical Humanities and Science.[17]


  1. ^ Pintar, Ivan (1925). "Sanctorius Sanctorius". In Vide Ogrin, Petra (electronic ed.). Cankar, Izidor et al. (printed ed.) (eds.). Slovenski biografski leksikon (in Slovenian). ISBN 978-961-268-001-5.CS1 maint: uses editors parameter (link)
  2. ^ Pearce, J.M.S. "A Brief History of the Clinical Thermometer". Oxford University Press. PMID 11937653. Retrieved July 17, 2016. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ "SANTORIO, Santorio (1561–1636): Medicina Statica: Being the Aphorisms of Sanctorius..." Hagströmerbiblioteket. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  4. ^ Zupanič Slavec, Zvonka (2001). "Vpliv Santorijevih del na Dubrovčana Đura Armena Baglivija" [The Influence of Santorio Santorii on Đuro Armen Baglivi from Dubrovnik] (PDF). Medicinski razgledi (in Slovenian and English). 40 (4): 443–450.
  5. ^ a b c Van Helden, Al (1995). "Santorio Santorio". The Galileo Project. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  6. ^ Borrelli, Arianna (2009). "The Weatherglass and Its Observers in the Early Seventeenth Century". In Zittel, Claus; Engel, Gisela; Nanni, Romano; Karafyllis, Nicole C. (eds.). Philosophies of Technology: Francis Bacon and His Contemporaries. Leiden: Brill. p. 109.
  7. ^ a b "Santorio Santorio (1561–1636): Medicina statica". Vaulted Treasures. University of Virginia, Claude Moore Health Sciences Library.
  8. ^ Van Helden, Albert. "Galileo Project" (PDF). Rice University. pp. 28–29. Retrieved June 18, 2015.
  9. ^ Daniel Boorsten, The Discoverers, Chap. 49
  10. ^ Kelly, Kate (2010). "Santorio and the Body as a Machine". The Scientific Revolution and Medicine: 1450–1700. Infobase Publishing. ISBN 9781438126364.
  11. ^ Bigotti, Fabrizio; Taylor, David (2017). "The Pulsilogium of Santorio: New Light on Technology and Measurement in Early Modern Medicine". Societate Si Politica. 11 (2): 53–113. ISSN 1843-1348. PMC 6407692. PMID 30854144.
  12. ^ a b Measure of the Heart: Santorio Santorio and the Pulsilogium, Richard de Grijs, Daniel Vuillermin,, arXiv:1702.05211v1 [physics.hist-ph], February 17, 2017, accessed February 28, 2017
  13. ^ a b Eknoyan, G. (1999). "Santorio Sanctorius (1561–1636) – founding father of metabolic balance studies". American Journal of Nephrology. 19 (2): 226–233. doi:10.1159/000013455. ISSN 0250-8095. PMID 10213823.
  14. ^ a b Price, Catherine (2018). "Probing the Mysteries of Human Digestion". Distillations. Science History Institute. 4 (2): 27–35. Retrieved October 30, 2018.
  15. ^ Kuriyama, Shigehisa. "The Forgotten Fear of Excrement." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. (2008): n. page. Print.
  16. ^ "Santorio Award | History of Science Society". Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  17. ^ "Santorio Fellowship | History of Science Society". Retrieved June 7, 2019.

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