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      The Pre-Vesalian Kidney: Gabriele Zerbi, 1445–1505

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          Gabriel Zerbi was born in Verona in 1445 and died in Dalmatia in 1505. He was professor of philosophy in Padua at the age of 22, and moved to Bologna where he became professor of medicine and philosophy. In Rome at the time of Sixtus V and Innocentius VIII, he was archiater and professor of medicine. He completed his academic career in Padua where he worked from 1494 to 1505 with a salary of 600 florins a month. A man of vast culture, a philosopher, physician and professor of medicine, he wrote many books: (1)  Questiones Metaphysicae; (2)  Gerentocomia; (3)  De Cautelis Medicorum; (4)  Liber anatomiae corporis humani et singulorum membrorum illius; (5)  De anatomia infantiis et porci ex traditione Cophonis, and (6)  Libellus de preservatione corporum a passione calculosa. His contribution to anatomy was superb. Through him the discipline became the basis of modern medicine. The core of this article deals with some passages of Zerbi’s chapters on the anatomy of the kidneys and bladder.

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          The Metaphorical and Mythical Use of the Kidney in Antiquity

           Giovanni Maio (1999)
          While the Syrians and the Arabs viewed the liver as the center of life, the kidneys, in contrast, held a primary place of importance in Israel. In Hebrew tradition, they were considered to be the most important internal organs along with the heart. In the Old Testament most frequently the kidneys are associated with the most inner stirrings of emotional life. But they are also viewed as the seat of the secret thoughts of the human; they are used as an omen metaphor, as a metaphor for moral discernment, for reflection and inspiration. This field of tension in metaphoric usage is resolved under the conception of the kidneys as life center. In the Old Testament the kidneys thus are primarily used as metaphor for the core of the person, for the area of greatest vulnerability. For us today, this metaphorical use of the kidneys has lost its meaning. One reason for its disappearance is certainly the monopoly of causal-analytic rationality in science of today. The kidney has developed from myth to organ, and with this transition a variety of perspectives and ways of looking at knowledge inherent in imaginative thought have been lost. But the metaphor uncovers a deeper level of truth, it represents another form of reconstruction of reality which needs not necessarily be subordinate to the scientific rationality. Today as well, these imaginative ideas can provide an approach to an essential level of reality which may otherwise remain hidden.

            Author and article information

            Am J Nephrol
            American Journal of Nephrology
            S. Karger AG
            July 2002
            27 June 2002
            : 22
            : 2-3
            : 164-171
            a1st Chair of Nephrology, Second University of Naples, Italy, and bDepartment of History of Science, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Okla., USA
            63756 Am J Nephrol 2002;22:164–171
            © 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel

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            Page count
            Figures: 9, Tables: 2, References: 16, Pages: 8
            Self URI (application/pdf):
            Origins of Nephrology –Middle Ages, Renaissance, Byzantium


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