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Popular Science Monthly/Volume 43/August 1893/Sketch of Paolo Mantegazza

< Popular Science Monthly‎ | Volume 43‎ | August 1893

 
PSM V43 D448 Paolo Montegazza.jpg
PAOLO MONTEGAZZA.
 


SKETCH OF PAOLO MANTEGAZZA.
By Prof. FREDERICK STARR.

AS a nation-we know far too little of what is being accomplished in the world outside. We do in some degree keep track of the work of our English brothers, and occasionally some French or German worker compels our recognition. But there are many intelligent readers who do not know that Italy is to-day a veritable center of scientific work. Yet such is the case, and in such sciences as astronomy, zoölogy, and botany great progress is making there. Nor are they at all behind in anthropology; and the man who leads in Italian anthropology is Paolo Mantegazza.

No doubt to many American readers his Physiognomy and Expression, lately put into an English dress, is the only work of Mantegazza's known. It is a remarkable book—not only on account of its matter, which is of great value, but also on account of its style. There is scarcely a scientific book in any language that so plainly reflects its author, in his individual and ethnic characteristics. To read it is to gain a wonderful insight into the Italian mind and into the Italian mode of thought and expression.

Paolo Mantegazza was born at Monza, near Milan, Italy, on October 31, 1831. His mother was a remarkable woman—Laura Solera—well known for philanthropy and patriotism. No small part of the force of character, the strength of purpose, and the clearness which Mantegazza shows in his work seems to be inherited from this woman. She established the first crèche and founded the first professional school for women in Italy. During the wars of 1848 and 1859 she cared for the wounded soldiers. There appears to have been an unusual love between this mother and son, and Mantegazza refers to her at times in his writings. He always deferred much to her opinion; and in 1883, when some question had arisen as to the propriety of his famous book upon the Physiology of Love, the author submitted the book to her for judgment. Her letter of approval is presented in full in the introductory chapter of the work, and ends thus: "When I shall have the happiness of having you near me, I shall point out to you the passages which most please me. Meantime receive the enthusiastic greetings of your affectionate mama."

Mantegazza studied medicine in the Universities of Pisa and Pavia. Having become a physician, he spent several months in Paris and then journeyed over a large part of Europe. At the age of nineteen years he published a memoir upon Spontaneous Generation, and was appointed Acting Professor of Chemistry in the Technical School at Milan. The first of the remarkable series of anthropological works which has rendered his name famous— The Physiology of Pleasure—appeared when he was only twenty-two years of age. It has been published and republished, translated and retranslated, and, although forty years have passed since its appearance, it is still issued in new editions in Italy. In 1854 Dr. Mantegazza removed to South America, and for four years practiced medicine at Buenos Ayres and Entrerios in the Argentine Republic and also in Paraguay. Returning to Italy in 1858, he practiced medicine and surgery in the military hospital during the war of 1859. In 1860 he secured, by competitive examination, the chair of General Pathology at the University of Pavia, and established in connection with that institution the first laboratory in experimental pathology, from which such eminent physiologists as Bizzazzero and Golgi have gone forth. In 1870 he removed to Florence to take the first chair of Anthropology. Here he has remained, constantly busying himself in every way that could extend the science to which he is so entirely devoted. Here he has founded the National Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology, the Italian Society of Anthropology, and the journal Archivio per l'Antropologia e la Etnologia. What Broca was to Paris and to France, Mantegazza is to Italy. The parallel is a strong one, for not only is Mantegazza, like Broca, a leader in anthropological science, but he is a leader of the most liberal portion of the workers in that field.

Of all sciences anthropology is the one which most keeps a man in touch with men and affairs. Every one knows the slap that the German emperor gave to Virchow recently at Berlin, The occasion was the birthday celebration of the two great scientists—Helmholtz the physicist, and Virchow the anthropologist. His Majesty congratulated Helmholtz upon having devoted himself so closely to his science that he had never meddled in political matters. It is easy for the physicist to do so. But how can a man who studies mankind hold himself aloof from human interests? Mantegazza has long been in public life. In 1845 he was sent from Monza as representative and was re-elected four times; while in 1876 he was elected senator of the kingdom of Italy. He has never been a political leader, but has always been clearly identified with the Liberal party.

Mantegazza's writings are exceedingly numerous and varied. He has written anthropological memoirs, works on medicine, volumes of travel, monographs upon special races, biographical studies, and romances. Among his more important anthropological works are Physiology of Pleasure, Physiology of Pain, Physiology of Love, Physiology of Hate, Love in Humanity, Hygiene of Love, and Physiognomy and Expression. All these have been translated into the leading languages of Europe and have exerted an immense influence. One or other of his books have been translated into fourteen distinct tongues. His three works on Love—Physiology, Hygiene, and Ethnology—have sold by thousands in Germany and France. Perhaps the only one of his more important works which has appeared in America is his Fisionomia e Mimica—Physiognomy and Expression. This has been issued in at least two forms within the last three years and has sold largely. Although we have already referred to it briefly, it deserves especial mention. It is an excellent example of Mantegazza's nervous, impetuous style. Nothing that has been written elsewhere upon expression can approach it. Every great emotion of mankind is taken up, and the form of expression by which it makes itself known is exhaustively analyzed. The subject itself is so attractive and the treatment so interesting that the book—unlike most scientific books—will bear reading and re-reading for pleasure. No one but an Italian could have written it. Expression is at its best where the blood is hot and vigorous, and where people feel as they live; in such a country as Italy, and among a people like the Italians, only could such a study be so well made.

Analysis is the word which describes all of Mantegazza's work. Analysis shows itself in his writings; it shows itself also in his museum, one of the most remarkable in the world. It is the National Museum of Anthropology and Ethnology. Fair in ethnography, good in general anthropology, it is remarkable in somatology, and unique in psychology. Who but the writer of Fisionomia e Mimica could analyze so cleverly the material in Physical Anthropology? Who but so good an analyst could fail so utterly in combining the material into a symmetrical whole? Mantegazza's Museum of Psychological Anthropology is his latest hobby. Here he plans to show by material objects the operations of the mind—the development of religiosity, the expression of love, of fear, of cruelty—of every emotion of our kind.

As an editor Mantegazza has done vast service. His Archivio per l'Antropologia e la Etnologia is a standard journal in the science, but of course reaches only a select circle of fellow-workers. The Hygienic Almanacs, however, which have appeared under his direction for a quarter of a century, in editions of many thousands, have not only done much to improve sanitary conditions among his own people, but in their German and Hebrew translations have reached thousands outside of the land of his birth. While speaking of this service, we may mention that Mantegazza's contributions to medicine have been neither few nor unimportant. It was he who introduced coca into Europe, and his monograph upon this valuable plant was "crowned."

Mantegazza is to visit America in September, and it is to be hoped that he may meet that hearty kindness from us which he has always extended to American men of science in Italy.