…….it being forbidden up to 10 years for any other person in any territory of ours to make a contrivance in the form and resemblance therefore….

Persecution of noted physicians and medical scientists


Most high school graduates are familiar with the trial and conviction of the Italian astronomer and physicist, Galileo (1564–1642), in 1633 for publishing a treatise on his observation that the earth revolves around the sun. The Inquisition banned his writings and Galileo spent the remainder of his life under house arrest.

Similarly, many mathematicians know that the Greek mathematician and philosopher, Pythagoras (582–500 BC), was kidnapped from Egypt by the invading Persians and imprisoned in Persia (present day Iran). But few physicians are aware that some of the most illustrious medical scientists and physicians have been persecuted and even executed or murdered for their professional, religious, or political beliefs. In this review, 12 appalling stories are recounted.

Rhazes (860–932 AD) devoted most of his efforts as a physician to the practice of surgery and to teaching at the medical school in Baghdad. He introduced the works of Hippocrates and Galen to the Arabic world. His “western” teachings, rational thinking, and fame as a medical writer and practicing physician brought Rhazes into conflict with the local hierarchy. He lost his teaching position, he was arrested, and his books were outlawed. His torturers hit his head with his books until he was blind. He died in extreme poverty [1].

Abumeron Avenzoar (1093–1162) of Cordova was the greatest Spanish Moslem physician and thinker. Because he and his pupils dared to express opinions contrary to Galen, a favorite of every organized religion, and because they promulgated doctrines of a self-renewing world (emergent evolution and virtual denial of creation), Avenzoar was persecuted and forbidden to write or teach. In his later years he earned his living by manual labor [2].

Guido Lanfranchi (1252–1315), also known as Lanfranc, was an Italian physician and surgeon who initially practiced in Milan. He was persecuted for political reasons and ultimately was driven out of Italy. He sought asylum in France and settled in Paris in 1295. He rapidly became known as the best surgeon in France. His published texts and high position in surgical circles earned him his reputation as the founder of French surgery [3].

Andreas Vesalius (1514–1564) is remembered as a great anatomist and as a founder of modern medical science that is based on facts rather than traditions. He had a turbulent life. As a student he was expelled from the University of Louvain, Belgium. He sought temporary refuge in Paris and at last found his place in Padua, Italy. After his epoch-making work, the Fabrica, was published, his fame as an anatomist became greater with every passing year. After his name became known around the world he was appointed as a court physician in Spain. By dissecting the body of a Spanish nobleman who had died in his care, Vesalius found, when he opened the man’s chest, that the heart was still beating. He was accused of murder and was brought before the Inquisition. The King commuted Vesalius’s death sentence to a pilgrimage of penitence to the Holy Land. While on the passage back to Spain after his pilgrimage, he died in a shipwreck [4].

Michael Servetus (1511–1553), a Spanish physician, discovered in 1545 the lesser circulation (the pulmonary circulation). Because he wrote a book in which he included certain remarks on the reform of Christianity, the book was regarded as heretical. He escaped from Spain and the Catholic Inquisition, but in Switzerland the Protestant Inquisition caught up with him. By order of John Calvin, Servetus was arrested, tortured, and burned at the stake on the shores of Lake Geneva together with copies of his book [5].

Johann G. Wirsung (1600–1643), a Bavarian monk and physician, discovered the excretory duct of the pancreas in 1642. Wirsung was envied by University professors and was subjected to incessant verbal insults. Jealousy led to a quarrel at the conclusion of a meeting, and he was shot to death by an assistant physician [6].

Marcello Malpighi of Bologna (1628–1694) is remembered as a founding father of anatomic pathology because of his pioneering studies on the liver, kidney, and spleen. His investigations received favorable comments outside the borders of Italy but on his home turf Malpighi was subjected to vitriolic attacks by his fellow professors. On more than one occasion, Malpighi was threatened and physically assaulted by his enemies. Ultimately, his attackers burned down his house and destroyed his library [7].

Henry Oldenburg (1615–1677) was a founder and the first secretary of the Royal Society, which was chartered in London in 1662. He vigorously solicited first-rate scientific papers for publication in the Society’s journal. He was instrumental in publishing many writings by the Dutch scientists, Leeuwenhoek and Swammerdan, as well as by the Italian, Malpighi. Oldenburg’s frequent and voluminous correspondence with foreigners attracted the attention of the authorities and he was arrested as a spy. He was jailed in the Tower of London for several months. Ultimately, he was released after Royal intercession [8].

Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier (1743–1794), a pioneer French respiratory physiologist, became a leading member in the pre-revolutionary French Academy of Science after his discovery that oxygen in inspired air is converted to carbon dioxide. Lavoisier opposed the election of Jean-Paul Marat to membership in the Academy. Years later, when Marat was a prominent leader of the French Revolution, he remembered Lavoisier. Lavoisier was arrested on trumped-up charges of financial irregularities and was tried by a revolutionary tribunal chaired by Marat. Lavoisier was guillotined on the day his trial ended and his body was buried in an unmarked grave [9].

James Wardrop (1782–1869), a prominent Edinburgh surgeon, is renowned for his aggressive operative procedures and for his introduction of the term “soft cancer” (soft tissue sarcoma). He learned about soft cancers in Vienna, Austria, having fled from France in 1803, when Napoleon ordered that English residents in France be arrested and imprisoned [10].

Rudolph Virchow (1821–1902), the most celebrated German pathologist, was throughout his life an outspoken champion of social and democratic reforms. In 1848, when he was an assistant pathologist, Virchow was a leader of an armed revolution in Berlin, demanding constitutional government, freedom of the press, and universal healthcare. The short-lived revolution failed. Virchow lost his job, was investigated by the police, and was banished from Berlin. To avoid formal prosecution and imprisonment, Virchow went to Würzburg in Bavaria, where he found an academic position, but had to promise that he would stay out of politics. He kept his pledge, but upon his return to Berlin in 1858, Virchow resumed his political activities and was elected a member of the German Reichstag [11].

Gerhard Domagk (1895–1964) was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine in 1939 for his 1935 discovery of the antibacterial effect of sulphonamide. Domagk was officially notified by the Nobel Committee in November 1939 (two months after the Second World War began) that he would receive the Prize. He instantly wrote a letter to the chairman of the Nobel Committee and expressed his thanks for the honor. Two weeks after he mailed the letter to Stockholm, he was arrested by the German secret police and taken to Gestapo headquarters. During his interrogation and incarceration he refused to eat. After his release, a week later, he was forced to sign a prepared letter that, because he was a loyal German citizen, he was not accepting the Nobel Prize, since by law Germans could not accept such awards or recognition from foreign nations.

During the Second World War, Domagk and his family were constantly watched by the police and occasionally he was brought to the police headquarters for questioning. Despite the fact that he was not permitted any contact with foreigners, sulphonamide was introduced in the late 1930s in many countries as an antibacterial drug. In Germany, however, Domagk and sulphonamide remained black-listed until the end of the war in 1945. The epilogue to Domagk’s story is that in 1947 he was invited to attend the Nobel celebration in Stockholm. He received the tokens of his 1939 prize, the diploma and the gold medal, but no Prize money. This was because in his will Alfred Nobel prohibited distribution of money if the Prize remained unclaimed beyond 10 months [12].

The preceding tally of individual tragedies of noted physicians and medical scientists is far from complete. As time and space permit, additional narratives will be presented.

  1. Riesman D. The Story of Medicine in the Middle Ages. Hoebner, New York, 1935.
  2. Garrison FH. An Introduction to the History of Medicine. Saunders, Philadelphia, 1929.
  3. Singerist HE. The historical development of the pathology and therapy of cancer. Bull NY Acad Med 1932;8:642–653.
  4. Castiglioni A. Histoire de la Médecine. Payot, Paris, 1931.
  5. Christie RV. Discovery of the pulmonary circulation. Dis Chest 1969;56:409–411.
  6. Wood M. Eponyms in biliary tract surgery. Amer J Surg 1979;138:746–754.
  7. Scarani P, Salvioli GP, Eusebi V. Marcello Malpighi (1628–1694). Amer J Surg Path 1994;18:741–746.
  8. Dobell C. Antony van Leeuwenhoek and His Little Animals. Russell and Russell, New York, 1958.
  9. Moll JMH. Antoine-Laurent Lavoisier. J Med Biogr 1994:2;242.
  10. Ewing J. Neoplastic Diseases. Saunders, Philadelphia, 1919.
  11. Rabl M. Rudolf Virchow, Briefe an seine Eltern 1839–1864. Engelmann, Leipzig, 1907.
  12. Schück H. Sohlman R, Österling A. et al. Nobel, The Man and His Prizes. Elsevier, Amsterdam, 1962.


The electromagnetic spectrum is the range of all possible frequencies of electromagnetic radiation.[1] The “electromagnetic spectrum” of an object is the characteristic distribution of electromagnetic radiation emitted or absorbed by that particular object.

The electromagnetic spectrum extends from low frequencies used for modern radio communication to gamma radiation at the short-wavelength (high-frequency) end, thereby covering wavelengths from thousands of kilometers down to a fraction of the size of an atom. It is for this reason that the electromagnetic spectrum is highly studied for spectroscopic purposes to characterize matter.[2] The limit for long wavelength is the size of the universe itself, while it is thought that the short wavelength limit is in the vicinity of the Planck length,[3] although in principle the spectrum is infinite and continuous.


or most of history, light was the only known part of the electromagnetic spectrum. The ancient Greeks recognized that light traveled in straight lines and studied some of the properties of it, including reflection and refraction. Over the years the study of light continued and during the 16th and 17th centuries there were conflicting theories which regarded light as either a wave or a particle. It was first linked to electromagnetism in 1845 when Michael Faraday noticed that light responded to a magnetic field. The first discovery of electromagnetic waves other than light came in 1800, when William Herschel discovered infrared light. He was studying the temperature of different colors by moving a thermometer through light split by a prism. He noticed that the hottest temperature was beyond red. He theorized that there was ‘light’ that you could not see. The next year, Johann Ritter worked at the other end of the spectrum and noticed that there were ‘chemical rays’ that behaved similar to, but were beyond, visible violet light rays. They were later renamed ultraviolet radiation. During the 1860s James Maxwell was studying electromagnetic field and realized that they traveled at around the speed of light. He developed four partial differential equations to explain this correlation. These equations predicted many frequencies of electromagnetic waves traveling at the speed of light. Attempting to prove Maxwell’s equations, in 1886 Heinrich Hertz built an apparatus to generate and detect radio waves. He was able to observe that they traveled at the speed of light and could be both reflected and refracted. In a later experiment he similarly produced and measured microwaves. These new waves paved the way for inventions such as the wireless telegraph and the radio. In 1895 Wilhelm Röntgen noticed a new type of radiation emitted during an experiment. He called these x-rays and found they were able to travel through parts of the human body but were reflected by denser matter such as bones. Before long many uses were found for them in the field of medicine. The last portion of the electromagnetic spectrum was filled in with the discovery of gamma rays. In 1900 Paul Villardwas studying radioactivity. He first thought they were particles similar to alpha and beta particles. However, in 1910 Ernest Rutherford measured their wavelengths and found that they were electromagnetic waves.

[edit] Range of the spectrum

Electromagnetic waves are typically described by any of the following three physical properties: the frequency f, wavelength λ, or photon energy E. Frequencies range from 2.4×1023 Hz (1 GeV gamma rays) down to the local plasma frequency of the ionized interstellar medium (~1 kHz). Wavelength is inversely proportional to the wave frequency,[2] so gamma rays have very short wavelengths that are fractions of the size of atoms, whereas wavelengths can be as long as the universe. Photon energy is directly proportional to the wave frequency, so gamma rays have the highest energy (around a billion electron volts) and radio waves have very low energy (around a femtoelectronvolt). These relations are illustrated by the following equations:

f = \frac{c}{\lambda}, \quad\text{or}\quad f = \frac{E}{h}, \quad\text{or}\quad E=\frac{hc}{\lambda},


Whenever electromagnetic waves exist in a medium with matter, their wavelength is decreased. Wavelengths of electromagnetic radiation, no matter what medium they are traveling through, are usually quoted in terms of the vacuum wavelength, although this is not always explicitly stated.

Generally, electromagnetic radiation is classified by wavelength into radio wave, microwave, terahertz (or sub-millimeter) radiation, infrared, the visible region we perceive as light, ultraviolet, X-rays and gamma rays. The behavior of EM radiation depends on its wavelength. When EM radiation interacts with single atoms and molecules, its behavior also depends on the amount of energy per quantum (photon) it carries.

Spectroscopy can detect a much wider region of the EM spectrum than the visible range of 400 nm to 700 nm. A common laboratory spectroscope can detect wavelengths from 2 nm to 2500 nm. Detailed information about the physical properties of objects, gases, or even stars can be obtained from this type of device. Spectroscopes are widely used in astrophysics. For example, many hydrogen atoms emit a radio wave photon that has a wavelength of 21.12 cm. Also, frequencies of 30 Hz and below can be produced by and are important in the study of certain stellar nebulae[8] and frequencies as high as 2.9×1027 Hz have been detected from astrophysical sources.[9]

[edit] Rationale

Electromagnetic radiation interacts with matter in different ways in different parts of the spectrum. The types of interaction can be so different that it seems to be justified to refer to different types of radiation. At the same time, there is a continuum containing all these “different kinds” of electromagnetic radiation. Thus we refer to a spectrum, but divide it up based on the different interactions with matter.


  1. ^ “Imagine the Universe! Dictionary”. http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/dict_ei.html#em_spectrum.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mehta, Akul. “Introduction to the Electromagnetic Spectrum and Spectroscopy”. Pharmaxchange.info. http://pharmaxchange.info/press/2011/08/introduction-to-the-electromagnetic-spectrum-and-spectroscopy/. Retrieved 2011-11-08.
  3. ^ U. A. Bakshi, A. P. Godse (2009). Basic Electronics Engineering. Technical Publications. pp. 8–10. ISBN 978-81-8431-580-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=n0RMHUQUUY4C. Retrieved 2011-10-16.
  4. ^ What is Light?UC Davis lecture slides
  5. ^ Glenn Elert. “The Electromagnetic Spectrum, The Physics Hypertextbook”. Hypertextbook.com. http://hypertextbook.com/physics/electricity/em-spectrum/. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  6. ^ “Definition of frequency bands on”. Vlf.it. http://www.vlf.it/frequency/bands.html. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  7. ^ Mohr, Peter J.; Taylor, Barry N.; Newell, David B. (2008). “CODATA Recommended Values of the Fundamental Physical Constants: 2006”. Rev. Mod. Phys. 80 (2): 633–730. Bibcode 2008RvMP…80..633M. DOI:10.1103/RevModPhys.80.633. http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Constants/index.htmlDirect link to value.
  8. ^ J. J. Condon and S. M. Ransom. “Essential Radio Astronomy: Pulsar Properties”. National Radio Astronomy Observatory. http://www.cv.nrao.edu/course/astr534/Pulsars.html. Retrieved 2008-01-05.
  9. ^ A. A. Abdo et al. (2007). “Discovery of TeV Gamma-Ray Emission from the Cygnus Region of the Galaxy”. The Astrophysical Journal Letters 658: L33. arXiv:astro-ph/0611691. Bibcode 2007ApJ…658L..33A. DOI:10.1086/513696.
  10. ^ Feynman, Richard; Robert Leighton, Matthew Sands (1963). The Feynman Lectures on Physics, Vol.1. USA: Addison-Wesley. pp. 2–5. ISBN 0-201-02116-1.
  11. ^ L’Annunziata, Michael; Mohammad Baradei (2003). Handbook of Radioactivity Analysis. Academic Press. p. 58. ISBN 0-12-436603-1. http://books.google.com/?id=b519e10OPT0C&pg=PA58&dq=gamma+x-ray.
  12. ^ Grupen, Claus; G. Cowan, S. D. Eidelman, T. Stroh (2005). Astroparticle Physics. Springer. p. 109. ISBN 3-540-25312-2.
  13. ^ Corrections to muonic X-rays and a possible proton halo slac-pub-0335 (1967)
  14. ^ “Hyperphysics (see Gamma-Rays”. Hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu. http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/ems3.html#c5. Retrieved 2010-10-16.
  15. ^ “Advanced weapon systems using lethal Short-pulse terahertz radiation from high-intensity-laser-produced plasmas”. India Daily. March 6, 2005. http://www.indiadaily.com/editorial/1803.asp. Retrieved 2010-09-27.
  16. google-site-verification: googlec879ff6879672e67.html
  17. [googlec879ff6879672e67.html]

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