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Headache among the educated in the century of enlightment


Owing to B. Ramazzini’s De morbis artificum diatriba, the 1700s may be considered as the century when occupational medicine was born. This paper considers Ramazzini’s treatise and some publications of the same century dealing with headaches as an occupational ailment of educated persons. Besides De morbis artificum diatriba, we also analyse De valetudine litteratorum by S.A. Tissot, Domestic medicine by W. Buchan, Della preservazione della salute de’ letterati e della gente applicata e sedentaria by G. A. Pujati and the Dizionario compendioso di sanità. In these works, headache is considered a typical illness of educated people, defined in a wide sense, close to the modern term “intellectual”. Head pain was regarded as the consequence of either a plethora of blood in the brain or tension in the head caused by mental concentration. No specific pharmacological therapy was suggested; instead, prophylactic measures were recommended, such as periodic interruptions of study, working areas that were well-ventilated and brightly lit, use of olive oil-burning lanterns and wax candles for evening study, abolition of toxic substances such as tobacco and alcoholic beverages, avoidance of the lying position while studying, and moderate consumption of legumes. Our investigation shows the attention given, in the century of the Enlightment, to headache caused by the professions requiring mental activity.

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Correspondence to Giorgio Zanchin.

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Zanchin, G., Mainardi, F., Dainese, F. et al. Headache among the educated in the century of enlightment. J Headache Pain 5, 153–159 (2004).

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