Biography of Angelo Dubini
Angelo Dubini acquired the medical doctorate at the University of Pavia in 1837, and then began working in the Ospedale Maggiore in Milan, where he was to spend almost his entire working life. He returned to Pavia for the academic biennium 1839-1841 as an assistant at the Clinica Medica, where he gave a free course in auscultation. In November 1841 he began a postgraduate trip to France, England, and Germany; in Paris he attended the courses of Gabriel Andral (1797-1875). At the end of 1842 Dubini returned to Milan and resumed his work as a medical assistant at the Ospedale Maggiore. In 1865 he was nominated as both head physician and director of the newly established dermatology department.
At the Ospedale Maggiore Dubini was the most noteworthy exponent of the médecine d’observation. This new clinical medicine attempted to formulate in the living being a diagnosis that is substantially anatomical by means of a continuous dialogue - possible only in the hospital - between clinical medicine and anatomical pathology, with a common purpose and subject.
Dubini’s most important discovery was made at the Ospedale Maggiore in 1838, a result of his anatomical work and his diligent and systematic opening of intestines in accordance with recent studies made by French physicians on typhic and tubercular ulcers. In May that year Dubini recorded a «new human intestinal worm» following the dissection of the corpse of a peasant woman who had «died of croupous pneumonia». This hookworm is the agent causing ankylostomiasis, the hookworm disease. This disease is endemic in tropical areas and still claims a million victims every year.
He confirmed this discovery in November 1842 and published his description in April 1843 (Omodei, Annali universali, 1843), describing the new worm as anchylostoma duodenale, derived from the hooked mouth of the organism and from its habitat in the human host. Dubini’s helminthological description is highly accurate and was further developed in his Entozoografia in 1850.
As early as his work of 1843 Dubini has stressed the high frequency of occurrence of the worm, «which, although it had not yet been seen by others, nor described, is nevertheless found in twenty out of one hundred corpses that are dissected with the aim of finding it.» This affirmation, - as well as testifying to the high incidence of anchylostomiasis in the countryside around Milan - demonstrates that Dubini (who had also noted that the worm seemed to be haematotrophic) was unwilling to attribute any particular pathogenicity to the duodenal ankylostoma. The pathogenicity of ankylostoma was eventually confirmed in the course of studies on Egyptian chlorosis made by F. Pruner, Wilhelm Griesinger (1817-1868) and Theodor Maximilian Bilharz (1825-1862) and in Otto Eduard Heinrich Wucherer’s (1820-1873) work on tropical chlorosis; it was proven beyond doubt in 1882 in the research of Giovanni Batista Grassi, C. and E. Parona, Edoardo Perroncito (1847-1936), Camillo Bozzolo (1845-1920), and Luigi Pagliani (1847-1932) on the serious epidemics of miner’s cachexia that spread among the miners of the St. Gotthard tunnel.