Antique Anatomy

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Fortunito Liceti

Fortunio Liceti (Latin: Fortunius Licetus; October 3, 1577 – May 17, 1657), was an Italian doctor, philosopher, and scientist.

He was born prematurely at Rapallo, near Genoa to Giuseppe Liceti and Maria Fini, while the family was moving from Recco. His father was a doctor and created a makeshift incubator, thereby saving Fortunio.

Fortunio studied with his father from 1595 until 1599, when he moved on to the University of Bologna, where he studied philosophy and medicine. There his teachers included Giovanni Costeo and Federico Pendasio, two men whom Liceti respected so much he later named his first son in their honor (Giovanni Federico Liceti). In October of 1599, Giuseppe Liceti fell fatally ill and Fortunio returned to Genoa, where Giuseppe was now practicing medicine. On March 23, 1600, Liceti received his doctorate in philosophy and medicine.

On November 5 of that year, Liceti took a position as lecturer of logic at the University of Pisa and in 1605, he was awarded a chair in philosophy. On August 25, 1609, he was given a professorship in philosophy at the University of Padua. Liceti was elected to the Accademia del Ricovrati in 1619 and held several offices within the group. He was denied promotion when senior colleagues died in both 1631 and 1637, so Liceti moved to the University of Bologna from 1637 to 1645, where he taught philosophy. On September 28, 1645, the University of Padua invited him to return as the first professor of theoretical medicine, the most prestigious chair in medicine, and he accepted. He held this position until his death. Throughout his life, Liceti remained committed philosophically to an Aristotelian viewpoint, although some recent scholars, such as Giuseppe Ongaro, have suggested he was not a rigid dogmatist.

Liceti died on May 17, 1657 and was buried in the church of Sant'Agostino in Padua. The church was later demolished but his grave marker, inscribed with an epitaph composed by Liceti himself, was saved and is now housed in the city's Civic Museum.