Animal Anatomies, Zoonotic Diseases, and Public Health Environments in Renaissance Italy

Sunday, January 8, 2012: 11:00 AM
Chicago Ballroom A (Chicago Marriott Downtown)
Karl Appuhn, New York University
In the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, European presses published a significant corpus of animal anatomies (primarily equine anatomies) and husbandry manuals that sought to elevate the care of domesticated animals from a rude art practiced by farriers to a form of natural philosophy. The most famous of these treatises, Carlo Ruini’s Anatomia del Cavallo, published in Bologna in 1591, was explicitly modeled on Vesalius famous De Fabrica. Among the more important claims advanced by Ruini and other animal anatomists, was the Galenic assertion that human and animal bodies were structurally similar, and therefore subject to cognate afflictions and diseases. This paper will examine the ways in which discourses about animal bodies and disease found in late Renaissance anatomies and husbandry manuals influenced pubic health policies in Italian cities. In particular, the paper will investigate the consequences of growing fears that animal diseases could make the jump to human bodies. Attending to period concerns about zoonotic disease draws our attention to central role that domesticates played in the history of Renaissance medicine and public health.
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