Biography of Guido Banti
Guido Banti is considered the most eminent Italian pathologist of the early twentieth century. He was born in a typical village of Tuscany, in the lower valley of the Arno River. He was the son of Dr. Scipione Banti, a physician, and Virginia Bruni. He studied medicine at the University of Pisa, but was graduated in 1877 from the Medical School of Florence. He was then appointed assistant at the Archihospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence and, at the same time, assistant at the Laboratory of Pathological Anatomy.
Banti was a tireless worker, working under the guidance of Celso Pellizzari (1851-1925). He was chief of the hospital medical service from 1882, in 1890 he became temporary professor and, in 1895, ordinary professor of pathological anatomy at the Medical School of Florence. His medical service at the hospital ended in 1924, after forty-seven years; he died the following year, his thirty-fifth year of teaching.
As a result of then existing arrangements, Banti could observe patients in bed and later study their corpses through autopsy as well as through laboratory tests. He wrote that clinical observations, anatomical report, and laboratory examination are three links in the same chain. Banti's numerous writings are original, and few men of science have spoken or written with such conciseness and clarity.
Banti was a perspicacious clinician, as evidenced by his study on heart enlargement (1886) and his notes for the surgical treatment of hyperplastic gastritis (1898) and acute appendicitis (1905). He was also a precise histologist who studied cancer cells (1890-1893) and a capable bacteriologist who published the first Italian textbook of bacteriological technique, Manuale di Tecnica Batteriologica (Florence, 1885).
As a bacteriologist, Banti integrated bacteriology with the pathogenesis of infectious diseases. His works on typhoid fever (1887, 1891) and his paper Le setticemie tifiche (1894) contained the first observations on typhoid without intestinal localizations. Of fundamental importance were his studies (1886-1890) on Diplococcus pneumoniae Fraenkelii. In particular Banti analysed the characteristics of the types haemolytic and viridians. In 1890 he affirmed the haematogenic pathogenesis of acute pneumonia. In his remarkable experimental work on the destruction of bacteria in organisms (1888), Banti contributed to the development of Metchnikoff's views on the phagocytic defence of the organism against bacterial invasion.
As a histologist, Banti wrote his Endocarditi e nefriti (Florence, 1895), in which he illustrated several forms of endocarditis and described arteriosclerosis of the kidney. He also anticipated the modern view of nephrosis. Opposing Ludwig Pfeiffer (1842-1921), who in Die Protozoen als Krankheitserreger (1890) interpreted as parasites some cytoplasmatic corpuscles in the cancerous cells, Banti denied the parasitic nature of these corpuscles, and showed that it is only a question of a pathology of the mytosis.
As an anatomist, Banti contributed to the understanding of aphasia (1886; and in his paper of 1907, A proposito de recenti studi sulle afasie, he confuted Pierre Marie's (1853-1921) views on the motor type of aphasia. Banti is especially remembered, however, for his contributions to knowledge of pathology of the spleen and of leukaemia. In 1913, he gave his nosographic definition of the leukaemia's and demonstrated the relationship of the spleen to haemolysis in vivo.
From 1882 to 1914 Banti studied the so-called primitive splenomegalies - enlargements of the spleen that are neither degenerative nor infectious. In his first work on the spleen, Dell'anemia splenica , in the second volume of Archivo di anatomica patologica (1882), Banti had already directed attention to the relation between some splenomegalies and a peculiar form of hypochromic progressive anaemia in adults. From further observations he was able by 1894 to describe a new morbid entity, later known as Banti's disease, characterized by anaemia with splenomegaly, and, in the terminal stage, by cirrhosis of the liver with ascites.
Banti developed knowledge of the spleen in relation to haemolysis. He demonstrated (1895-1912) that the spleen is the principal site for the destruction of red blood cells, and that this normal function is exaggerated when the spleen becomes enlarged pathologically. Banti stated that only splenectomy can stop the haemolytic process, and the first splenectomy for haemolytic jaundice was performed in Florence, on his advice, on February 20, 1903.
But Banti's name is primarily connected with leukaemia: "All leukaemias belong to the sarcomatoses", he wrote in 1903, in opposition to the views of Arthur Pappenheim (1870-1916) and Carl von Sternberg (1872-1935). With further observations Banti completed his definition in 1913. He concluded that the leukaemias are systematic diseases arising from haemopoietic structures, lymph glands, and bone marrow, and that they are the consequence of limitless proliferative power of staminal blood cells. This is still the basic definition of leukaemia.
From 1907 to 1909 Banti was municipal adviser and also assessor of sanitation in Florence. A devout Roman Catholic, he also had a deep belief in science, which he often expounded in his lectures.