Santorio Santorio

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Santorio 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 Santori (March 29, 1561 – February 22, 1636),[1] also called Santorio Santorio, Sanctorio, Sanctorius of Padua[2] and various combinations of these names, was an Italian 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 was born on March 29, 1561 in Capodistria, in the Venetian part of Istria (today in Slovenia).[5] Santorio's mother, Elisabetta Cordonia, was a noblewoman from an Istrian family. Santorio's father, Antonio, was a nobleman from Friuli working for the Venetian Republic as chief of ordinance of the city.[6]

He was educated in his home town and continued his studies in Venice before he entered the University of Padua in 1575,[7] where he obtained his medical degree in 1582. He became a personal physician to a Croatian nobleman from 1587 to 1599, and he set up a medical practice in Venice, where he met Galileo.[8]

Santorio died in Venice on February 22, 1636 caused by complications of a urinary tract disease that he suffered from for many years, and he is buried in Servants of the Blessed Virgin Mary Church (Italian: Santa Maria dei Servi).[9]


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. He resigned from the university in 1629, five years after a student charged him with negligence of his teaching duties.[10][11] His Professor title and pension were kept for the rest of his life, as he returned to practice medicine in Venice. In 1630, he was elected President of Venetian College of Physicians and Chief Health Officer.[9]

His practices and thinking followed Hippocratic and Galenic principles, but his keen experimentalism marks him as a representative of the 17th Century iatrophysical school of medicine.[12] This school of thought focused on application of mathematics and physics to the study of physiology.[13]


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.[13] Whereas he invented the former two devices, it is possible that the pulsilogium and thermoscope were inspired by his friends Galileo Galilei, Paolo Sarpi and Giovanni Francesco Sagredo who were his learned circle of friends in Venice.[8] Santorio introduced the pulsilogium at 1602 and thermoscope in 1612.[14]

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.

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.[15] A century later, another physician, François Boissier de Sauvages 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.[9] 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.[16] Santorio also applied his weighing device to study his patients, but records of these experiments have been lost.[9]

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.[13]

This important experiment is the origin of the significance of weight measurement in medicine.[17] While his experiments were replicated and augmented by his followers and were finally surpassed by Antoine 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][16]


  • Methodus vitandorum errorum omnium qui in arte medica contigunt (1602)
  • Commentaria in artem medicinalem Galeni (1612)
  • De Statica medicina (1614 )
  • Commenteria in primam Fen primi Canonis Avicennae (1625)
  • Commenteria in primam sectionem Aphorismorum Hypocratis (1629)
  • De remediorum inventione (1638 )
  • De lithotomia seu calculi vesicae consultatio co-authored with L. Batarourum (1629) ( Posthumous)
  • De instrumentis medicis (unpublished)[9]

Grants named after Santorio[edit]

In January 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 to study medical humanity.[18] 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 and the Santorio Fellowship for Medical Humanities and Science.[19]


  1. ^ Purnis, Jan (2016), "Sanctorius: Born: 29 March 1561, Capodistria, Venetian Republic (now Koper) Died: 22 February 1636, Venice", in Sgarbi, Marco (ed.), Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 1–4, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_970-1, ISBN 978-3-319-02848-4
  2. ^ Pearce, J. M. S. (April 2002). "A brief history of the clinical thermometer". QJM: Monthly Journal of the Association of Physicians. 95 (4): 251–252. doi:10.1093/qjmed/95.4.251. ISSN 1460-2725. PMID 11937653.
  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. ^ Purnis, Jan (2016), "Sanctorius: Born: 29 March 1561, Capodistria, Venetian Republic (now Koper) Died: 22 February 1636, Venice", in Sgarbi, Marco (ed.), Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy, Cham: Springer International Publishing, pp. 1–4, doi:10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_970-1, ISBN 978-3-319-02848-4
  6. ^ Bigotti, Fabrizio; Taylor, David; Welsman, Joanne (June 2017). "Recreating the Pulsilogium of Santorio: Outlines for a Historically-Engaged Endeavour". Bulletin of the Scientific Instrument Society. 133: 30–35. PMC 6420152. PMID 30882088.
  7. ^ Gasparini, Mladen (2011). "Santorio Santorio: the pioneer of evidence based medicine". Annales kinesiologiae. 2 (1): 49–56. ISSN 2232-2620. OCLC 814120160.
  8. ^ a b Van Helden, Al (1995). "Santorio Santorio". The Galileo Project. Retrieved December 22, 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d e 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. S2CID 32900603.
  10. ^ Magner, Lois N (2002). A History of the Life Sciences, Revised and Expanded (3rd ed.). New York: CRC Press. p. 975. ISBN 0-8247-4360-1. OCLC 52707891.
  11. ^ Borrelli, Arianna (2008), Zittel, C.; Nanni, R.; Engel, G.; Karafyllis, N. (eds.), "The Weatherglass And Its Observers In The Early Seventeenth Century" (PDF), Philosophies of Technology: Francis Bacon and his Contemporaries, Brill, pp. 67–130, doi:10.1163/ej.9789004170506.i-582.24, ISBN 978-90-04-17050-6, S2CID 56372101, retrieved August 4, 2020
  12. ^ a b c Grijs R, Vuillermin D (2017). "Measure of the heart: Santorio Santorio and the Pulsilogium - Hektoen International". Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  13. ^ a b c "Santorio Santorio (1561-1636)". Vaulted Treasures: Historical Medical Books at the Claude Moore Health Sciences Library. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  14. ^ Kelly K (2010). The scientific revolution and medicine : 1450-1700. New York: Infobase Publishing. p. 36. ISBN 978-1-4381-2636-4. OCLC 539314988.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ a b Price C (August 13, 2018). "Probing the Mysteries of Human Digestion". Science History Institute. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  17. ^ Kuriyama, Shigehisa (September 1, 2008). "The Forgotten Fear of Excrement". Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. 38 (3): 413–442. doi:10.1215/10829636-2008-002. ISSN 1082-9636.
  18. ^ "Home". CSMBR - Fondazione Comel (in Italian). Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  19. ^ "International Summer School in Renaissance Medicine - Early Modern Representations of the Body and its Changing Matter, 29-31 March 2019, Italy". ARMACAD. Retrieved August 4, 2020.

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