Biography of Francisco Javier Laso de la Vega y Orcajada (1785-1836)

Spanish physician, born in Cartagena (Murcia) in 1785 and died in Cádiz in 1836.

He studied at College of medicine and surgery of Cádiz, where he obtained successively the degrees of Bachelor of surgery (1806), Bachelor in medicine (1811), Licentiate in medicine (1817) and doctor of surgery (1825). During the war of independence, he participated in several actions as a military surgeon and worked in health services in the port of Cadiz. In 1813 he was appointed substitute Professor of practical medicine in Cadiz school, and was head of its clinical teaching until 1820. He then held adjunct faculty positions to be designated in 1831 Professor of history of medicine and medical literature. The main stage of the scientific activity of Laso was, however, the surgical society of Cadiz. It was "First founding partner" and Secretary, as well as director and Chief Editor of its newspaper, which became the medical journal with the Spanish most important from the first third of the 19th century.

Laso and Cadiz surgical society were fundamental protagonists of the introduction into Spain of the new medicine from the school of Paris clinicopathological. The numerous written production of Laso includes original works and translations, as well as news and critical reviews about the most important European medical news. It dealt with the most diverse medical fields, but the core of his work was what today we call internal medicine. The most notable of his original works is, without doubt, a monograph on yellow fever (1821), careful study of the clinical, pathological anatomy and the treatment of this condition. It includes as Appendix a "Anatomical inspections", in which Laso presents twenty-six cases, corresponding to the epidemic of 1819. In each of them, it offers clinical history and data of epidemiological interest, a detailed autopsy report and a commentary, relating the results of both.

In his youth years, Laso had been influenced by an author of transition with Philippe Pinel. When he made this work, on the contrary, their mentality was already an anatomoclinico sensu stricto, in the line of the Parisian Charité, headed by Jean N. Corvisart and René T. H. Laennec. It is not surprising as the introducer of mediate auscultation as a routine diagnostic tool. André Mazet, French medical doctor friend him, sent him a "pectorilocuo" at the end of 1820 or at the beginning of 1821, i.e., to the next year of the first edition of the Treaty of Laennec. Beginning in 1822, the newspaper of Cádiz society published an extended abstract of the latter, already followed by the announcement of a local Builder of the new instrument. Six years later, the own Laso could say that it had become commonplace "in our clinical rooms and the apartments of our sick individuals". Without stopping in his other works on internal medicine topics, write down only that he translated the Treaty of François Lallemand on the pathological anatomy of the brain (1824-1826), the best neurological text of the school of Paris.

Laso devoted great attention to the therapeutic. Among his articles devoted to this matter is perhaps the entitled "Considerations sobe medical use of quinine and cinchonine" (1822), in which he summarized and commented, for the first time in Spain, Pierre Joseph Pelletier and Joseph B. Caventou works, as well as investigations to François Magendie and other authors had done on these alkaloids. He assimilated these initial contributions of modern pharmacology from the results of his own experience, and worried about spreading the obtaining of new active chemical ingredients in their environment. It is very significant that, two years later, a pharmacist, Member of the society, published in the newspaper a method that had devised "to develop with greater economy quinine". Laso introduced also the treatment of goiter iodic and dealt with many therapeutic resources, including electrotherapy and the moxa of Chinese origin.

Public hygiene was another discipline that deserved their attention. He worked on smallpox vaccination and was an early diffuser of the work of a hygienist as significant as Louis René Villermé. Under its direct influence, the newspaper of Cádiz society published a "key" (1820) to write medical topography and regularly included tables with thermometric, barometric and humidity data every day of the quarter, as well as an 'epidemic Constitution' of the same, with exhibition of diseases dominant and statistics of deaths, specifying the cause of death, age and sex. The Hippocratic tradition and medico-social trends emerging coincided, in short, in this aspect of its activity. The rest of their written production, we will remember only his biography of José Celestino Mutis (1828).

During the two decades that followed his death, orientation clinicopathological Laso had given to the school of Cádiz was continued by authors such as José de Gardoqui, Manuel José de Porto and Antonio Gracia Álvarez. It was a group that was considered a supporter of the "glorious tradition of Gimbernat, Mutis and Laso" explicitly.



Most of the written production of Laso appeared in four volumes of the newspaper of the medical-surgical society of Cádiz, Cádiz, IMP. the House of mercy, 1820-1824, as well as in the fifth volume, published under the title of records and memories of the Royal medical-surgical Academy of Cádiz, Cádiz, widow and son of Bosch, 1829. As a "Supplement" volume I, published its anatomical inspections concerning the history of yellow fever verified at the military Hospital of this square, during the epidemic that reigned the year 1819 and as "Supplement" of the IV, his translation of the work of Lallemand, anatomico-patologicas research on the brain and its dependencies.


LÓPEZ PIÑERO, José María: "Francisco Javier Laso de la Vega and the introduction of auscultation in Spain" in Latin American archive of history of medicine, 11 (1960), 157-167.lopez PINERO, José María: "the school of Cádiz and the introduction into Spain of the medicine clinicopathological" Medical Spanish, 70 (1973), 125-133.lopez PIÑERO, J. M., F. Bujosa, M. L. Terrada: Spanish classics of pathological anatomy previous to Cajal. Spanish Classics on Pathology before Cajal, Valencia, Chair and Institute for the history of medicine, 1979, pp. 30-33, 127-129.

José María López Piñero