70 years of aeronautical and space medicine. In the footsteps of Father Gemelli

The tribute to Father Gemelli, pioneer of aeronautical medicine on December 9, 1964. At the table the Minister of Defense Giulio Andreotti.  Standing General Tommaso Lomonaco, president of Aimas

The tribute to Father Gemelli, pioneer of aeronautical medicine on December 9, 1964. At the table the Minister of Defense Giulio Andreotti. Standing General Tommaso Lomonaco, president of Aimas – Aimas

In the wake of Father Agostino Gemelli and the other pioneers of Italian aeronautical medicine to explain how scientific research in the aerospace field can make a significant contribution to the community. This is the case of the study conducted by a team of researchers on the spatial orientation front which will be among the main themes of the XXXII National Conference of the Italian Association of Aeronautical and Space Medicine (Aimas) which takes place in Reggio Calabria from 5 to 7 October. .

«It is a very important aspect for our pilots – explains the medical lieutenant colonel of the Air Force Paola Verde, general secretary of Aimas -. On the one hand individuals with Dte, that is, evolutionary topographical disorientation, and on the other military pilots who with their extraordinary visuospatial abilities represent the opposite extreme as well as the ideal champion to study environmental navigation ».

A group of researchers from Sapienza, in collaboration with some specialists from the Irccs San Raffaele in Rome, the University of L’Aquila, the Pratica di Mare Aeronautical and Space Medicine Department, the Irccs Santa Lucia Foundation, the University of Catanzaro and that of Bologna, have highlighted the spread of DTE in Italy, so far only single cases with this disorder had been described. “The study was conducted on 1,698 people, of which 1063 men, without neurological and / or psychiatric disorders, aged between 18 and 35 and with an average of 14.8 years of full-time education” underlines Professor Laura Piccardi of Wisdom. “It emerged that about 3 percent of people are affected by evolutionary topographical disorientation – adds Lieutenant Colonel Green -. Many cognitive processes are involved in navigation such as the ability to move from one place to another, following familiar paths and avoiding getting lost in new and familiar environments. These are processes that include mechanisms such as memory, mental images and attention to the characteristics of places. This research, together with the study of the spatial orientation methods of military pilots, could help to understand and combat diseases such as Alzheimer’s ».

A step forward that is the result of a journey begun by Aimas seventy years ago: “After two years of absence, due to the pandemic, all the health professionals who deal with aeronautics and space can finally confront and discuss live cases specific clinics, new regulations, the repercussions on the aeronautical world of the most recent scientific discoveries – notes the general chief inspector in auxiliary Enrico Tomao, president of Aimas -. This appointment remains unique in the Italian healthcare panorama, just as aerospace medicine remains unique, representing the only link between traditional medicine with its many disciplines and the world of flight “.

It was May 30, 1952 when the Italian Aeronautical Medicine Association (Aima) was born on May 30, 1952. Then it was completed with the ‘spatial’ connotation in 1963. It was the future General Tomaso Lomonaco who in Venice, in the Salone delle Colonne di Cà Giustiniani, after receiving the consent of the head of the aeronautical health service, Gennaro Pera, gathered a group of aeronautical doctors to give life to Aimas. An association that set itself «the aim of increasing and coordinating studies and research in aeronautical medicine as well as connecting and strengthening relations with other similar companies, with university institutes and scientific bodies both in Italy and abroad.

The most authoritative aeronautical doctors of the time participated in the first assembly, including Rodolfo Margaria, director of the Institute of Human Physiology of the University of Milan; Emanuele Scavo, holder of Surgical Anatomy at Sapienza; Anna Maria Di Giorgio, director of the institute of human physiology of the University of Turin and many others. Lomonaco was elected general secretary that year while the Journal of Aeronautical Medicine, published by the Ministry of Aeronautics, became the official organ of the AIMA.

Another historical stage was the V Congress of aeronautical medicine which was held from 20 to 23 September 1953 in Naples, of which Father Gemelli was appointed honorary president. These were the years of the Cold War and the world divided into two opposing blocs, between the USA and the USSR engaged in the race to conquer space, but above all the Moon. Therefore studying the psycho-physical abilities and the training of pilots also from the point of view of the “human factor” became fundamental.

Seventy years after Aimas, which draws its distant origins in the first intuitions, observations and researches of great names in Italian physiology at the beginning of the last century and on this first trend it has progressively grafted the growing contribution of the medical officers of the aeronautical health corps in the study and research centers, in the medical-legal institutes and in the departments of the Air Force. “The dual military and civil roots continue to be represented in Aimas which – concludes Tomao – remains the guardian and heir of the historic and pioneering aero-medical activities in Italy and a point of reference for those who, both in the military and civil fields, cultivate biomedical scientific interests and of work in the aeronautical and space fields “.


Six study sessions, over 40 interventions and dozens of case studies that will cover as many aspects of flight from a medical-scientific point of view. A three-day event that from 5 to 7 October will see the arrival of university professors, medical officers, pilots, experts and researchers from all over Italy in Reggio Calabria to participate in the XXXII National Conference of AIMAS, the Italian Association of Aeronautical and Space Medicine . After the first session dedicated to Regulatory Medicine, the Congress will open with the greetings of the civil, military and ecclesial authorities and with the delivery of the “I Guidoniani” scientific prize. The Lectio Magistralis centered on the figure of Fulco Ruffo di Calabria will be followed by the concert of the “Gulli” Musical High School Orchestra conducted by Maestro Cettina Nicolosi. On 6 October the more than 200 participants will dedicate a moment of remembrance to the recently deceased chief inspector of the Aeronautical Sanitary Corps, Manlio Carboni. Then we will get to the heart of the work with the sessions dedicated to flight safety, aerospace medicine, neurophysiological and neuropsychological aspects of aerospace neuroscience.

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