Adolfo Ferrata 1880-1946

Professor Ferrata was one of the great masters of clinical medicine but, above all, he was unquestionaly the founding father of Hematology in Italy, and his theories, which had remarkable influence on the progress of the entire field of hematology, are still valid today. His first fundamental notion was an intuitive insight into the ontogenesis of blood cells, the so-called monolineage theory of Ferrata. As early as 1910-1912 Ferrata was using the term hemocytoblast to indicate a cell that was capable of generating all the cells of the blood, and from the very beginning he spoke of the stem cell. The idea of a hemocytoblast produced a remarkably clarifying effect: one need only think of how back then scientists faced with the polymorphism of myeloid cells had formulated the most disparate hypotheses regarding the origin of the different families of blood cells. At that time Ferrata’s theory was more the product of his great intuition than the result of direct evidence, which cellular morphology alone rendered extremely problematic. In the last 10-15 years we have witnessed the demonstration of the full validity of Ferrata’s theory as well as its remarkably practical importance.