Sémeiótiké, seu nova cognoscendi morbos methodus, 1601

Nova Cogno


Aemilio Campolongo


Johannes Iessenius


De Modo

Aemilio Campolongo and Johannes Iessenius

This book has two authors: Emilio Campolongo (1550-1604), an Italian professor of Medicine, and Johannes Jessenius (1566-1621), a Bohemian professor of Medicine. 

Emilio Campolongo was born in 1550 in Padua, Italy, the son of a medical professor, Lodovico Campolongo. He studied Medicine in Padua, receiving his medical doctorate in 1573 at age 23. In the following decades, he published several books, one on arthritis with a second part dedicated to smallpox (1586). The book on smallpox is not original. A second book published in 1592 was on joint pain. The current book, Sémeiótiké, is about a new diagnostic method. It is based on a novel method described a few decades earlier by Girolamo Capivaccio, his professor at Padua, and Johannes Iessenius, a follower and student of Capivaccio.           

Johannes Iessenium (a.k.a. Jessenius, Jeszenszky) (December 27, 1566 – June 21, 1621) was a Bohemian physician, politician, diplomat, and philosopher originally from the Kingdom of Hungary. He had Slovak, Polish, and German roots. His father, Boldizsár Jeszenszky de Nagyjeszen, left Slovakia and settled in Silesia in 1555. Jessenius was born in Breslau (Wrocław), where he studied. From 1583 he studied at the University of Wittenberg, the University of Leipzig, and from 1588 at the University of Padua under Girolamo Capivaccio. From 1593 Jesenius was the physician of the Prince of Saxony, and from 1594 professor of anatomy at the University of Wittenberg. After 1600, he settled in Prague as a professor and anatomical consultant for Rudolph II, King of Bohemia and Holy Roman Emperor. In 1600 he performed a public autopsy in Prague. In 1617 he was elected rector of Charles University of Prague. His political career led him to imprisonment and, in 1621, his execution in Prague. His volume and Campolongo were published in 1601 and followed Capivaccio's teachings, including his method of taking a patient's medical history.

This volume is the basis of modern medical diagnostics. Galen identified three parts to Medicine: physiology, pathology, and diagnostics (semiotics), the latter having been ignored. Capivaccio and Iessenius developed an algorithmic decision tree (see image above), presented at the outset of the present book, showing how to navigate symptoms and questions. For the first time, we can discern the outline of modern medical history taking, a distinction between subjective and objective signs and symptoms. This work describes the importance of gathering patient information to decide the patient's potential diagnosis and treatment.

Based on research by Calvin Lee, class of 2026, as part of her assignment in Elective in History of Medicine and Dentistry, 2022-2023. Researched and edited by Andrew I Spielman.

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