Luca Ventura*, Adele Ranieri*, Gaetano Miranda**, Gino Fornaciari***
* Department of Pathology, City Hospital, L’Aquila, Italy;
** Department of Environmental Sciences, University of L’Aquila, Italy;
*** Division of Paleopathology, Department of Oncology, Transplants and Advanced Technologies in Medicine, University of Pisa, Italy.

The history of italian paleopathology is not well known, despite the numerous publications appeared since the dawns of last century. As in other fields of medicine, the studies are often ignored because written in Italian and published on local journals, but many of them preceded the authoritative works of english researchers. The contribution of italian authors to this discipline, moreover based on important collections, should not be neglected. Aim of the present study is to add further knowledge to the topic, by reappraising an important author of the past.

Gaetano Corrado was born in 1858 in Paglieta (Chieti province, central Italy), where his father Giuseppe, coming from Calabria, established his family. In the center of this small town near the Adriatic sea and Sangro river the palace of the Corrado family is still visible today. Here a plate remembers Gaetano Corrado and the road behind the palace is dedicated to him.

The first years of his career were devoted to ophthalmology. He took the Medicine Doctor degree at the University of Naples on July 1884 discussing a thesis on the opthalmetrograph, an original instrument for objective measurement of ocular refraction and fundus examination. Subsequently patented and developed by Salmoiraghi it represents the forerunner of modern refractometers. In the same year he became assistant of Professor Castorano and in 1886 went to Paris to improve his skills in three different hospitals.

Back to Italy, in 1887 he became assistant of Professor Luigi De Crecchio, the recognized father of experimental forensic medicine. Since 1894 he was professor in Cagliari, where he established the Institute of Legal Medicine, and full professor in Naples in 1901.

His forensic attitude allowed him to carry out, in such a distant time, an extremely valid and detailed study of the Cagliari mummy. After a careful anthropologic analysis he stated that the mummy belonged to a 50-60 year-old female, disproving the public rumour of a murdered pregnant woman. He noticed skin lesions and high gastrointestinal antimony levels, ascribed to the use of vescicants and emetic tartrate for a presumed pneumonia. Such findings allowed him to date back the mummy to the beginning of XIX century. In analogy with the studies on the mummies from Ferentillo and Venzone, he pointed out the role of acari in the mummification process. By using a fairly conservative anatomic approach, he paid great attention to gross and histologic identification of organs, quoting the works of Czermak and Maddox, as well as to microbiologic and chemical analysis of abdominal contents.

He was also interested in foeto-neonatal anatomy and anthropology, writing scientific papers about age assessment methods and dental growth, reporting rare malformations and developing instruments for the measurement and gross section of cadavers.

Actually engaged in the rehabilitation of invalids and war cripples, his most clever creation is represented by the “piedattrezzi” (foot-tools). These special devices, exposed at the London Exhibition in 1918, were designed to restore those who suffered war mutilations to agricultural labour. His social committment resulted evident during the I World War, when he was volunteer in Naples Military Hospital with the degree of Major. Since 1919 he became Lieutenant Colonel, Medical Corps, and Director of the Institute for rehabilitation of invalids and war cripples, in Naples.

His great talent was also expressed in public works planning and researching new ways of energy production. In the years 1925-1928 he planned urbanistic projects to connect the different parts of Naples by a subway system. In the following period he realized research projects for the energy production using natural gas, as well as sea waves and wind.

Member of many scientific and academic organizations, he was Master of the Medicine Faculty in Naples twice. He wrote 55 scientific papers, but many others were lost during the II World War, and died in Naples at the age of 76.

We believe that the contributions of Gaetano Corrado in anatomy, anthropology and mummiology, although effected without a real awareness of paleopathologic sciences, should not be forgotten.

Corrado G. Ricerche su di una mummia rinvenuta a Cagliari e considerazioni sulla causa della mummificazione. Atti della Reale Accademia Medico-Chirurgica di Napoli 1899; 53: 467-503.

Corrado G. Ricerche su di una mummia rinvenuta a Cagliari e considerazioni sulla causa della mummificazione. Atti della Reale Accademia Medico-Chirurgica di Napoli 1899; 53: 467-503. Corrado G. Prof. Gaetano Corrado 1858-1935. Bologna, La Perseveranza 1971.

Czermak J. Beschreibung und mikroskopische Untersuchung zweier ägyptischer Mumien. Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften Wien 1852; 9: 427-469.
Fulcheri E. Su alcune ricerche di Giuseppe Bini: esempi di percorsi culturali tra anatomia patologica e storia. Pathologica 2001; 93: 244-247.

Maddox R L. On the different tissues found in the Muscle of a Mummy. Journal of the Royal Microscopical Society 1887; Part 4: 537-544.
Ventura L, Ranieri A, Miranda G, Fornaciari G. Gaetano Corrado. A pioneer in ophthalmology, forensic medicine and paleopathology. V World Congress on Mummy Studies, Torino, 2-5 september 2004.