University - Their birth


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Currents of thought and the birth of universities


Etruscan Minerva


Greek Minerva

The Late Middle Ages left us an indestructible legacy: the foundation of universities, which is nothing more than a happy symbiosis of all the cultures that had characterized the early Middle Ages.

These cultures (Christian and Arab), even if they had a dogmatic orientation, allowed the rise of another current that gave birth to scientific thought.

The word university, which in the sec. XII and XIII did not have the modern meaning of a school in which all branches of knowledge are represented, but rather that of a corporation of teachers and students, acquired a meaning closer to the current one with the University of Law and the University of Arts and Medicine.

The term to indicate academic institutions in the abstract was then Studium. Only later did the word Universitas appear, which was used for the first time in Perugia in 1316 with the expression "Universitas Studii".

At this point we must consider that the one that held the university monopoly was only the class of Jurists who had the nickname of "Utriusque Iuris", who did not look favorably on the entry of Medicine into the university world.

Only jurists could boast the title of Doctores and therefore they were, only they, worthy of the magisterium.

To raise Medicine to a branch of study at the level of Jurisprudence it was necessary to have a written text, as jurists had the Justinian Code

For this reason it was necessary to identify a sacred text that would allow to validate every observation and affirmation, this text was identified in the works of Galen, which were discussed with the dialectical-deductive method.

In this way, medicine also created its dogmas, a natural consequence of the infallibility of the texts, and adapted to legal teaching.


Emperor Justinian

The one who assumed this task seems to have been Taddeo degli Alderotti, a teacher at the University of Bologna, who made sure that the faculty of the Jurists accepted that of the Medici artists, who, adapting to their teaching method, had shown that even the medical art could be equated in dignity with law.

Certainly, however, this acceptance of the dogmatic legal method considerably slowed down the development of scientific thinking based instead on objectivity.

This happened mainly because the universities had to serve the culture of the time which found strength and security in dogma.

In this period, Christian culture, making itself strong with St. Thomas and the connection to Aristotelian doctrine, created schools that do not give space to any form of clinical and experimental research.

In any case, figures appear in this period, such as Mondino di Liuzzi, Public Lector in the Bolognese Studio from 1314 to 1324, who used to come down from the chair to refute directly on the corpse what the texts of the time of Galen and more recent periods had asserted, such as "Anatomy on pigs" by Cofone the Younger (1085-1100), thus giving life to a method that was beginning to have something scientific.

It is also the period of the diffusion in Arabic of the ancient Greek and Latin works which are subsequently brought back to the original language, but in this last passage they suffer cuts and errors of content, just remember the translation work. of Constantine the African, who worked in Montecassino.


Oxford University

University medical faculties began to arise in Italy where for some time there had been schools free from any authority and imposed dogmatism.

The only adverse case was that of Salerno where the Salerno School for centuries had been a beacon of culture in the practical medical field and which, however, had gradually lost this important position due to dogmatism.

It should be emphasized that unfortunately this germ survived for a long time even after the arrival of scientific thought since the influence of Galen was so deeply permeated in the spirit and mental habit of those scholars, that it was almost impossible to detach from it and, even today, we sometimes witness to episodes dictated by pure dogmatism, but not deriving from medieval culture.

Riesman wrote in this regard: "The teaching of Medicine as a systematic and organizational enterprise had its beginning in Salerno. This school, however, did not flourish to the point of becoming a true University in the modern sense of the word, but it was necessary to wait until 1242. when Frederick II founded the University and regulated its statutes.


Cambridge University

The great distinction was made for the first time in Bologna, then in Paris, Montpellier, Oxford, Cambridge and other medieval centers of culture that still survives.

The political and social events of the time and the legal systems influenced the birth and evolution of the university in Italy in the thirteenth century.

The first medical university to be opened was the one granted by Pope Honorius III in 1219 in Bologna, here it was poorly tolerated by the jurists who had physically relegated it to parts of the city, far from their schools and the students lived in hospices.

It even happened in Paris, as Martinotti writes in his "Study on the teaching of anatomy in Bologna", that anatomy lessons were held in brothels, and this is confirmed by the chroniclers of the time.

In 1222 the contrasts between jurists and doctors arose in Bologna as the latter began to get talked about and consequently were exiled even more than before, so much so that we are witnessing an exodus of professors and students from Bologna to Padua, where the group found wide reception.


La Sorbonne University

The University of Padua had just been founded and already in 1223 welcomed Albert the Great, who found great interest in the sciences and his work can be considered as the principle of the experimental school.

According to some historians, the University of Vercelli was also built between 1220 and 1228, which had been established with a pact between the podestà of Vercelli and the rectors of the various nations, at the closure of this University it was succeeded by that of Turin from 1406 to 1411 .

The University of Siena originated in 1241, while the Studium Urbis, that is the University of Rome originating from the Schola Palatina, where the liberal arts and medicine were taught, can be dated 1303, but had even earlier origins.

Mario Petrocchi

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