Giacomo da Forli

(Jacopo della Torre, Jacobus Foroliviensis, James Tower)


Giacomo da Forli a medieval scholastic and physician who held a chair in the field of medical theory at the university of Padua in Italy the early 15th century. He wrote about the reconciliation of the ideas of Aristotle with the tenets of Hippocrates and Galen. He was known particularly for his studies of embryology.

Giacomo da Forli on apoplexy (stroke) from Karenberg & Hort, 1998c, p193-195.

The Paduan professor began his commentary by discussing the theoretical problem of how brain damage cold provoke sudden death, although the heart was the principal organ of the human body. What follows is a perfect illustration of a scholastic scholar's syllogistic explanation. According to Giacomo, there was no doubt that the heart was the central organ of life. But the heart was dependent upon the regular function of the brain, insofar as one of the main functions of the brain was to cool the heart. This special action was performed by respiration. Respiratory movement required an undisturbed flow of the animal spirit from the brain to the thoracic muscles. Therefore respiration was dependent upon the regular function of the brain. If the normal flow of animal spirit from the brain to the muscles were blocked, as occurred in apoplexy, the natural warmth in the heart was suffocated and the patient died. A stroke, therefore, started in the brain but terminated in the heart.

Writings about Giacomo da Forli

Boughan, Kurt (2006) Beyond diet, drugs, and surgery: Italian scholastic medical theorists on the animal soul, 1270-1400. Unpublished Dissertation. Iowa City Iowa: University of Iowa.

Karenberg, A. & Hort, I. (1998) Medieval descriptions and doctrines of stroke: Preliminary analysis of select sources. Part III: Multiplying speculations - the high and late middle ages (1000-1450). Journal of the History of the Neurosciences, 7, 3, 186-200