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Ferdinando Gianotti

Born 1920
Died 1984

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Italian physician, born 1920, Corsico, near Milan; died 1984.

Biography of Ferdinando Gianotti

Ferdinando Gianotti was a prominent representative of the School of Dermatology of Milan. This school was officially opened in 1924 by Agostini Pasini (1875-1944). In 1946 Agostino Crosti assumed charge and had six successors. Ferdinando Gianotti was one of them.

Ferdinando Gianotti was born in 1920 in Corsico, a little town near Milan, and came from a very poor family. After the primary school he started to work in a tannery where, at the age of 13, due to an accident he lost his left forearm. As a compensation his employer allowed him to complete his studies. Gianotti completed his course in only 5 years. He graduated in Medicine with full marks and honours in 1947.

Gianotti selected Dermatology "because with the skin it is impossible to be a cheat " and "because the skin is always a discovery". In 1950 he became an assistant to professor Crosti, and in 1956 he was appointed professor of dermatology. In 1981 he became Chairman of the Department of Paediatric Dermatology and the same year also Director of the Institute of Dermatology and Paediatric Dermatology.

Gianotti started to work in Paediatric Dermatology in 1953 because "children do not speak", and also because "the smile of a cured child has an inestimable value". In 1954 Gianotti created the first Italian (and probably European) department of Paediatric Dermatology.

Gianotti was an introvert, reserved, taciturn, apparently surly man, but gifted with a great memory and an unbelievable capacity to observe. Being with children helped to change his character; he emanated sweetness, bewitched their presence and was even able to receive their affection in return

He was the author of more than 200 publications concerning blister diseases, mastocytoses, lichen striatus, pityriasis lichenoides, and genodermatoses. His main observation was "the papular acrodermatitis of childhood" that he described in 1955.

Gianotti was also a great expert in the field of histiocytic syndromes and, in 1971, in collaboration with R. Caputo and E. Ermacora, described a rare form of non Langerhans cells histiocytosis involving the head and named "Benign cephalic histiocytosis".

His way of teaching was unconventional, but sharply stimulating. He never offered the diagnosis of a disease directly, but always invited the student to reach a diagnosis on his own by observing, reading, inquiring and thinking.

He was a pioneer of paediatric dermatology and is now considered one of the fathers of this discipline.

This is taken from a communication to the Société française d'Histoire de la Dermatologie on December 4, 1998, written by professor Ruggero Caputo (with some small changes by the editor).

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