An Italian physician and philosopher, Bernardino Ramazzini (1633–1714) graduated with a degree in medicine from Parma in 1659, and became professor of medicine at Modena in 1682 and at Padua in 1700. He wrote many books on aspects of medicine, the most famous of which, written in 1700, is De Morbis Artificum Diatriba (Diseases of workers). This was the first systematic treatise on occupational diseases, and for this achievement Ramazzini is remembered as the father of occupational medicine and hygiene. Ramazzini's book is a descriptive account of working conditions in more than fifty occupations and of the diseases of workers in these occupations. Included were miners, potters, glassblowers, painters, privy cleaners, corpse handlers, midwives, makers of wine and beer, stonecutters, standing and sedentary workers, voice trainers, singers, farmers, fisherman, and many others. Ramazzini's observations were accurate and precise, although he provided no numerical information and made statements implying rather than expressing levels of risk, so readers could not determine, for example, whether pottery was a safer occupation than knife grinding. His accounts remain a good model for occupational health, and they also provide a valuable vignette of the social history of the working classes at the time of the Renaissance.
JOHN M. LAST
(SEE ALSO: Occupational Disease)