Anthrax in Italian Medical Journals Before the Unification of Italy


  • Valentina Gazzaniga Department of Medico-Surgical Sciences and Biotechnologies Sapienza University of Rome
  • Silvia Marinozzi Department of Molecular MedicineUnit of History of Medicine Sapienza University of Rome


At the origins of the bacteriological debate, many paths cross medical and veterinary history all over Europe. Reading the Annali Universali di Medicina, an Italian Journal published in Milan between 1817 and 1888, allow us to underline the perceived social role of Hygiene, the newborn medical specialty interpreting epidemics and zoonosis as consequences of wrongful economical, social and health politicies. In the issues of Annali printed just before the unity of Italy, anthrax can be assumed as a paradigmatic model to reconstruct the scientific and medical debate  about aethiopathogenesis of infectious diseases crossing the nineteenth century; its reflections in the printed journals and magazines pages (we particularly refer to) provides interesting informations about the public perception of medical theories concernig the concept of contagion, the idea that infectious diseases can derive from a bodily poisoning, the theory of ‘poisonous fields’, according to which animals can contract anthrax by simply herding in high nitrogen content soils.