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Varolio, Costanzo

1. Dates
Born: Bologna, 1543
Died: Rome, 1575
Dateinfo: Dates Certain
Lifespan: 32
2. Father
Occupation: Unknown
Sebastiano Varolio is described only as a citizen (even an honest citizen) of Bologna.
No information on financial status.
3. Nationality
Birth: Italian
Career: Italian
Death: Italian
4. Education
Schooling: Bologna, MD, Ph.D.
Varolio studied philosophy and then medicine (especially anatomy under Aranzio) at the University of Bologna. M.D. and Ph.D., in the standard Italian style, in 1567.
5. Religion
Affiliation: Catholic 6. Disciplines: Ant.
His principal work was De nervis opticis, 1573, which was primarily an anatomy of the brain which employed a new technique in the dissection of the brain that altered the whole approach.
Anatomiae libri IIII, 1591--a posthumous work.
6. Scientific Disciplines
Primary: None
7. Means of Support
Primary: 7. Support: Acd, Medicine, Patronage
Varolio received his M.D. in 1567. In 1569 the Senate of Bologna created an extraordinary chair in surgery, with responsibility to teach anatomy as well, for him.
He went to Rome in 1572. Possibly he taught at the Sapienza, though he is not listed on the role there. Possibly he was physician to Gregory XIII, though again there appears to be no record. (Mandosio states that he was physician to Gregory; Marini denies it.) There seems to be no doubt that he enjoyed the patronage of the Pope, who was from Bologna.
In Rome especially he had considerable success both as a physician and as a surgeon. His memorial plaque refers to his great skill in removing stones.
8. Patronage
Types: Eccesiastic Official, City Magistrate
The Senate of Bologna and the Pope--see above.
9. Technological Involvement
Type: Medical Practice
10. Scientific Societies
Memberships: None
  1. A. Hirsch, Biographisches Lexikon der hervorragenden Aerzte aller Zeiten und Voelker (3rd ed., Munich, 1962), 5, 709.
  2. Michaud, Biographie générale, 42, 654-5.
  3. G. Fantuzzi, Notizie degli scittori bolognesi, (Bologna, 1781- 94), 8, 158-60. Dezeimeris, J.E. Ollivier and Raige-Delorme, Dictionnaire historique de la medecine ancienne et moderne, 4 vols. (Paris, 1828-39), 4, 309. The names, without first names or initials except for Ollivier, appear this way on volume 1; Dezeimeris alone appears on the remaining volumes.
  4. Gaetano Luigi Marini, Degli archiatri pontifici, 2 vols. (Roma, 1784), 1, 429. Prosper Mandosius, Theatrum in quo maximorum christiani orbis pontificum archiatros spectandos exhibit, a separately paginated inclusion at the end of vol. 2 of Marini, (Roma, 1784), pp. 39-41.
Not Available and Not Consulted
  1. G. Martinotti, Costanza Varolio e il suo metodo di sezionare l'encefalo, (Imola, 1926). I cannot, of course, tell from the title if this work is any good, but it appears to be the only title devoted to Varolio. No American library appears to hold it.
  2. _____, L'insegnamento dell'anatomia in Bologna prima del secolo XIX, (Bologna, 1911).
  3. Gaetano Marini, Degli arciatri pontifici, 1 (Rome, 1784), xxxviii.
  4. Michele Medici, Compendio storico della scuola anatomica di Bologna, (Bologna, 1857), 84-90.
  5. Ludwig Choulant, History and Bibliography of Anatomic Illustration, tr. Mortimer Frank, (Chicago, 1920), 214-15.
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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