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Paper: Galileo as a Patient
Volume: 441, The Inspiration of Astronomical Phenomena VI
Page: 73
Authors: Thiene, G.; Basso, C.
Abstract: The clinical history of Galileo, as it turns out from hundred letters he wrote and received, is so informative as to make it possible to delineate the natural history of his body. It is well known that he suffered from recurrent episodes of fever (terzana) since 1606, when he was in Florence as guest of Cristina Lorena for education of the future granduke Cosimo II. By reading signs and symptoms he reported several times, it is clear that he had various diseases (rheumatism, haemorroids, kidney stones, arrhythmias). When in December 1632, at the age of 68, Galileo delayed his journey to Rome claiming sickness, Pope Urban VIII committed 3 physicians to examine him. They reported that Galileo was affected by “pulsus intermittens” (most probably atrial fibrillation), large hernia at risk of rupture, dizziness, diffuse pain, hypochondriacal melancholy as a consequence of the “declining age”. It was in February 1637 that he started to have eye disease with lacrimation and progressive loss of sight, which in 10 months led to loose at first the right eye and then also the left one. According to the consultation, asked at distance to Giovanni Trullio on February 1538 in Rome, the diagnosis of blindness due to bilateral uveitis came out. Keeping with the current medicine, the illnes might have been explained in the setting of an immune rheumatic disease (Reiter's syndrome). The cause of Galileo's death, which occurred on 8 January 1642 at the age of 78, is not known since it was not submitted to autopsy. We can speculate cardiac death due to pneumonia complicating congestive heart failure.
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