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Malpighi, Marcello

1. Dates
Born: Crevalcuore (Bologna), 10 Mar. 1628
Died: Roma, 29 Nov. 1694 (If it matters, Fantuzzi says 30 November, and Fabroni 3 October.)
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 66
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
Of the father we are told only that Marc-Antonio Malpighi was in comfortable circumstances, which I take to mean affluent.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Bologna, M.D., Ph.D.
He completed his grammatical studies in 1645 at Bologna. In 1646 he matriculated the University of Bologna, where his tutor was Francesco Natali. On Natali's advice he began to study medicine in 1649. He first attended the school conducted by Bartolomeo Massari, then that of Andrea Mariani.
He graduated as doctor of medicine and philosophy (in a familiar Italian pattern) in 1653. I assume a B.A. or its equivalent is implied in that.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: Anatomy, Embryology, Microscopy
Subordinate: Botany, Physiology, Entomology
He first systematically and fruitfully exploited the microscope in anatomical and embryological research. His first and fundamental work is the De pulmonibus, two short letters he sent to Borelli in Pisa and which were published in Bologna in 1661. In these letters he announced his fundamental discoveries about the lung. The results of his researches on the fundamental structures of the brain and of the tongue, carried out by using marine animals, were published in a series of treatises in 1665-6. He reiterated and developed his theory of glandular structure in the epistolary dissertation De structura glandularum congloratarum consimiliumque partium (London, 1688). His chief hematological treatise, De polypo cordis, appeared in 1666 as an appendix to the De viscerum structura (Bologna, 1666). With the De formatione and the subsequent appendenx to it (1675), he brought a fine structural content to embryology. His Anatome plantarum (1675 and 1679) earned him acclaim as the founder of the microscopic study of plant anatomy.
Malpighi also did fundamental work on the silk worm.
He could also be listed under Medicine (there was a posthumous De recentiorum medicorum studio, a defense of rational medicine against empirics) and Zoology.
7. Means of Support
Primary: Academia, Medicine
Secondary: Patronage, Government
After completing his M.D. in 1653, Malpighi began to practice.
1656, lecturer in logic at the University of Bologna.
1656-9, professor of theoretical medicine at the
University of Pisa.
1659-60, extraordinary lecturer on theoretical medicine at the University of Bologna, at salary of 500 lire.
1660-2, 1666-91, ordinary lecturer in practical medicine at Bologna, at salary of 500 lire before 1666, and of 1200 lire from 1666 to 1991.
1662-6, professor of medicine at the University of Messina, with a salary of 1000 scudi plus 300 scudi for travel expenses.
1666-91, medical practice at Bologna.
1691-4, chief physician to Pope Innocent XII at Rome. He was also appointed as Protomedico in Rome.
In 1691, elected to the Accademia degli Arcadi at Rome.
8. Patronage
Types: Court Official, City Magistrate, Aristrocrat, Eccesiastic Official, Scientist
The Grand Duke, Ferdinand II, in 1656 offered him a chair in theoretical medicine at Pisa, and he accepted. How his reputation should have reached the Tuscan court is not known.
The Assunti di Studio recommended in 1659 that his salary (at the University of Bologna) be increased by 300 lire in order to differentiate him from outsiders hired for primary chairs and customarily paid 400 lire. After his second return to Bologna, the Assunti di Studio again proposed an increase of 700 lire in his salary, the recommendation was adopted by the Senate on the same day, thus brought his salary to 1200 lire. I list this under Magistrates.
He owed his position at Messina to Borelli, to whom he had dedicated his first book. It was Borelli's recommendation that was responsible for his election by the Messina Senate to the primary chair in medicine at Messina, which came sooner than might have been expected. Through Borelli's influence he received his reappointment in 1666.
In Messina he lodged with Visconte Giacomo Ruffo Francavilla, and to the Visconte he dedicated a letter on the senses.
Cardinal Pignatelli, who became Pope Innocent XII in 1685, wanted him to move to Rome, but he declined because of his poor health.
Pope Innocent XII, who had as a Cardinal been the Papal legate to Bologna, called Malpighi to Rome as Protomedico in 1691 when he had just been elected to the papacy. With his appointment as cameriere segreto partecipante, he acquired clerical status as a monsignor and was thereafter addressed as Reverendissimo.
9. Technological Involvement
Types: Medical Practice, Instruments
Malpighi developed the techniques by which to apply the microscope to anatomical and embryological research.
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: Royal Society, Medical College, 1691-1694
In October 1667 Oldenburg composed a friendly letter to him and invited him to enter into scientific correspondence with the Royal Society of London. By this time he had already published some of his most important works. He replied in April 1668, and began his correspondence with the Royal Society, an association which lasted for the rest of his life. The Society subsequently supervised the printing of all his later works. He was elected FRS in 1669.
He was elected to the College of Doctors of Medicine in Bologna in 1691.
Malpighi's relationship with Borelli, which began in Pisa, was obviously important. He also maintained relations with Fracassati, Cornelio, and Steno.
He was taken into the Arcadia in Rome.
Adelmann has published Malpighi's correspondence in five volumes (Ithaca, 1975).
  1. Howard B.Adelmann, Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology, Ithaca, N.Y., 1966. QL953.A22
  2. L. Belloni, "Marcello Malpighi," in G. Arrighi et al., La scuola galileiana, (Firenze, 1979), pp. 137-53.
  3. Pietro Capparoni, Profili bio-bibliografici di medici e naturalisti celebri italiani dal sec. XV al sec. XVII, 2 vols. (Rome, 1925-28), 1, 73-5. In the copy I have, vol. 1 is from the second ed, (1932) and vol. 2 from the first (1928). I gather that pagination in the two editions is not identical.
  4. P.A. Saccardo, "La botanica in Italia," Memorie del Istituto Veneto di Scienze, Lettere ed Arti, 26 (1985), 100 and 27 (1901), 66.
  5. The editor's introduction to Malpighi, Opere scelte, Luigi Belloni, ed., (Torino, 1967).
  6. G. Fantuzzi, Notizie degli scittori bolognesi, (Bologna, 1781- 94), 5, 128-45. A. Fabroni, Vitae italiorum doctrina excellentium, (Pisa, 1778), 1, 128-93.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. A. Gallassi, "Studie e ricerche su Marcello Malpighi," Rivista di storia delle scienze, 41 (1950), 7-63.
  2. M. Anzalone, Marcello Malpighi e i sui scritti sugli organi del respiro, (Bologan, 1966).
  3. E. Toffoletto, Discorso su Malpighi, (Bologna, 1965).
  4. F. Morini, Marcello Malpighi e la botanica.
  5. F. Todara, Marcello Malpighi nella medicina e nella biologia.
  6. E. DeMichelis, Marcella Malpighi e la storia del pensiero.
  7. G. Weiss, Di Marcelloa Malpighi e delle sue opere, (Messina, 1884). T.M. Brown, The Mechanical Philosophy and Animal Oeconomy, Ph.D dissertation, Princeton University, 1968, pp. 100-4.
Compiled by:
Richard S. Westfall
Department of History and Philosophy of Science
Indiana University

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1995 Al Van Helden
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