Rossi, Lino (1923–2004)
Date, Country, City of Birth
December 31, 1923, Milan, Italy
Date, City of Death
August 11, 2004, Innsbruck, Austria
History of Life
After the war he trained in pathology in Milan; in 1951 the director of his institute, Professor Pietro Redaelli (1898–1955), sent him to Bristol to study the parathyroids, supported by a scholarship of the Italian National Council for Research. He attained a professorship in pathological anatomy in 1957 and then qualified in cardiology in 1959. In the period 1948–1967, his career in morbid anatomy and clinical pathology climbed from Assistant and Senior Assistant to Head of the Service in a Community Hospital, finally becoming Director of the Cardiovascular Laboratory in the Institute of Pathology.
In 1980, Dr. Rossi was invited to the 53rd Scientific Session of American Heart Association to deliver the Paul Dudley White International lecture, a prestigious annual speech in honor of Paul Dudley White (1886–1973), who is considered the father of American cardiology. Later he was elected Honorary Fellow of the Council on Clinical Cardiology. Lino Rossi received also an Honorary Membership of the British Cardiac Society in 1982, of the Italian Group of Cardiovascular Pathology in 1991, and of NASPE in 1993.
He also worked for the Italian Ministry of Health, establishing the criteria for the diagnostic evaluation of the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and the sudden death of the fetus. Lino was not only a scientist, but also a humanist, a painter, and a historian, in other words truly a homo universalis. Believing that the microscopic morphology of the heart’s conduction and nervous systems required the same attention and attitude as archeological research, he dedicated himself also to the study of classical history and inscriptions of Roman monuments and coins. He so became Honorary Fellow of the Royal Numismatic Society in 1982. His interest in the Roman Empire and Army culminated in the book Trajan’s Column and the Dacian Wars (Cornell University Press, Ithaca 1972, 240 pages). Also in this research he gave an outstanding demonstration of how a morphologist is able to interpret the scenes sculptured in low profile in the stone column.
Lino Rossi was Professor of Pathology as Libero Docente (Free Professor), but he never held a permanent position at the university. The Italian Academy never offered him the honor to become ordinary (= full) professor. He well deserves the motto Nemo Propheta in Patria (nobody is acknowledged in his own country). However, after his death, a “Lino Rossi” Research Center for the study and the prevention of unexpected perinatal death and SIDS was founded at the Institute of Pathological Anatomy of the University of Milan, which still continues his research on infant sudden and unexpected deaths.
In 1955, Lino Rossi married Graziella, a devoted and inspiring wife along all his life, in whose arms he eventually died. Unfortunately, they had no children, but this even reinforced their relation.
Lino Rossi died on August 11, 2004, at the age of 81.
Main Achievements in Medicine/Pathology
In every field of his research, Rossi applied a morphological method based on precise observations and careful interpretations of the finest details of human normal and pathological anatomy. Rossi focused his interest on conduction and nervous systems of the heart. He was a true cardiopathologist with the unique skill to read the electrocardiogram at the microscope. Lino Rossi together with Michael J. Davies (1937–2003) from London confirmed, by studying histologically hundreds of cases, that 60–80% of AV blocks involve the His bundle and the proximal bundle branches, much more frequently than the AV node. The work of Lino Rossi culminated in the books Histopathologic Features of Cardiac Arrhythmias (1969) (which had a second edition in 1978, with a small change of the title to Histopathology of Cardiac Arrhythmias) and Arrhythmologic Pathology of Sudden Death (1984), shared with his pupil Gaetano Thiene, which represents outstanding examples of correlation between ECG recording and histologic substrates of cardiac rhythm disorders. The histologic pictures of atrioventricular block and ventricular preexcitation are still unique. In particular, the serial histologic sections technique of two large blocks from the sinoatrial and atrioventricular septal junctions still represents the only reliable way to investigate histologically the cardiac conduction system. He frequently did the sections personally at the microtome, a true artisan of research without any grants.
In the case of SIDS, an autopsy is legally obligatory in Italy, thanks to the guidelines inspired by Lino with specimens sent to the “Lino Rossi” Center where there is a national data base representing one of the most updated records on this issue in the world.