Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/207

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drugs and cosmetics, and in the practice of medicine among persons of both sexes: such were Abella, author of two medical poems; Costanza Calenda, the talented and beautiful daughter of a skillful physician, under whose instructions she attained to a doctor's degree; Mercuriade, author of several treatises; Rebecca Guarna, Adelmota Maltraversa, and Marguerite of Naples, who obtained royal authority for practicing the medical art. (Beaugrand, in "Diet. Encyc. Sci. Médicales.")

The ancient and honorable universities of Italy were, we believe, the first to recognize the capacity of women to give instruction of a high character. The University of Bologna, founded in 1116, was attended in the year 1250 by ten thousand students, engaged in the study of jurisprudence, of philosophy, and of medicine. "Here was first taught the anatomy of the human frame, the mysteries of galvanic electricity, and later the circulation of the blood." Here, too, were the earliest successful experiments in admitting women to occupy professorial chairs, for a long line of female professors taught in many departments of learning.[1]

As early as the thirteenth century two women were numbered among the eminent professors of the University of Bologna, Accorsa Accorso and Bettisia Gozzadini, the former held the chair of Philosophy, the latter that of Jurisprudence. In the fourteenth century the lovely and learned Novella d'Andrea, daughter of a distinguished lawyer, often took her father's place in the professorial chair, and instructed his students in law. Of Novella it is reported that she was so beautiful that she lectured behind a curtain, "lest, if her charms were seen, the students should let their young eyes wander over her exquisite features and quite forget their jurisprudence." The rival University of Padua, founded in 1228, had also its female representatives. Of these the most distinguished was Elena Lucrezia Cornaro. This interesting woman was born at Venice, June 5, 1646, and at a very early age exhibited an extraordinary capacity for acquiring languages. She was familiar with French, Spanish, Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, besides her native Italian, and had some acquaintance with Arabic. While endowed by nature with poetical and musical talents, she possessed at the same time great perseverance and capacity for serious studies, and discoursed eloquently on abstruse topics in philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, and theology. At the age of thirty-two, the University of Padua conferred upon her the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Cornaro seems never to have held any public position, being naturally of a retiring disposition, and moreover exceedingly devoted to the order of St. Benedict. After acquiring a European reputation, she died at the comparatively early age of thirty-eight (1684).

The beginning of the following century witnessed the birth of one

  1. According to Madame Villari, whose papers on the "Learned Women of Bologna" furnish us with many of the succeeding data, there is to the present day no law preventing women from graduating at Italian universities or taking professorial positions.