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Sheila Pantry Associates Ltd


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“Quam artem exerceas?” = “What kind of work do you do?”

September 2014

2014 is a special year for those interested in the history of occupational medicine. This year the world commemorates the third centennial of the death of Bernardino Ramazzini (1633 – 1714). After 30 years of close examinations of workers and workplaces, and 10 years of lectures for students, Ramazzini was at the height of his professional life with the publication of his magnum opus De morbis artificum diatriba in the year 1700. This book was so successful that is has been translated from Latin into many other languages.

On the strength of his new epidemiological insights regarding the role of work as a factor for the origin of diseases, Bernardino Ramazzini has created a new medical paradigm: the occupational disease. To the classic anamnesis of Hippocrates, Ramazzini has added a new question: “Quam artem exerceas?” – “What kind of work do you do?”

For one and a half century De morbis artificum diatriba has been the standard for occupational medicine. At the beginning of the industrial revolution in Great Britain around 1850 the living and working conditions for workers changed dramatically, and new demands were made on the protection of occupational health. However, Ramazzini has continued to influence our thinking about occupational diseases, by his accurate observations of workplaces and workers, and his clear descriptions of diseases of artisans. De morbis artificum diatriba (Full text in Latin is considered to be one of the classics of medicine, comparable with De humani corporis fabrica (Vesalius 1543), De motu cordis (Harvey 1628), De sedibus et causis morborum (Morgagni 1761) and Anatomie générale (Bichat 1801).

To find information on living and working conditions for today’s workers look at the electronic collection of 26 databases in OSH UPDATE which currently (September 2014) has over 1.2 million records on all aspect of health and the workplace.