Marcello Malpighi

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Marcello Malpighi

Marcello Malpighi (born March 10, 1628 in Crevalcore , Province of Bologna , Italy, † November 29, 1694 in Rome ) was an Italian anatomist and pioneer of microscopy, who is considered the founder of plant anatomy and comparative physiology .


Malpighi was born the year William Harvey published the results of his studies on blood circulation . At the age of about seventeen he began to study philosophy at the University of Bologna . In his senior year, however, both parents and his paternal grandmother died, so he had to drop out and take care of the family's financial affairs. He was only able to continue his studies two years later, but he also had to choose a subject that could support a family, since the three subsequent siblings were girls. In 1653 he finally received the degree of Doctor of Medicine and Philosophy. The following year he married Francesca Massari, the younger sister of his mentor at the medical school, Professor Massari, who died the following year. Malpighi taught logic at the University of Bologna for three years.

Although his refusal to blindly follow Galen's teachings provoked criticism, he received the chair of applied medicine at this faculty in 1656 and the chair of theoretical medicine created especially for him at the University of Pisa in the same year . Here he met Giovanni Alfonso Borelli , who introduced him to the Accademia del Cimento , founded by Leopoldo de 'Medici in 1657 . The members of this academy were followers of Galileo and represented an experimental research method. After working in Pisa for three years, Malpighi returned to Bologna, two years later was called to Messina in Sicily, where he worked for four years, and then returned to Bologna. In 1669 he became a member of the Royal Society in London . In the last three years of his life he was the personal physician of his friend Pope Innocent XII. and head of the Pontifical Medical Faculty. He died of a stroke at the age of 67.

The scientific work

Everything that Malpighi took in was scientifically processed. With the help of the new technique of microscopy , he made significant discoveries in the field of anatomy : the rete Malpighii or the basal layer of the skin (the stratum basale of the epidermis ), Malpighi bodies in the spleen ( spleen follicles ) and kidneys ( kidney corpuscles ), the Malpighi miracle network the glomerula bear his name.

Comparative anatomical research on the liver and the first accurate description of the embryonic development of chickens come from him. His studies of the capillaries in humans also opened his eyes to the structure of plants from plant organs . He founded the plant anatomy with it . Together with Nehemiah Grew , he is considered the founder and created the terminology that is still used today .

His studies of insects led him to the discovery of the Malpighian vessels , which he recognized as organs of osmoregulation and excretion . With the discovery of the capillaries, he was able to confirm William Harvey's assumptions about blood circulation. In addition to anatomy, he also dealt with issues relating to germination and glandular function .

Malpighi's letters and embryological writings have been edited and commented on by Howard B. Adelmann in large Latin-English editions.


Charles Plumier named in his honor the genus Malpighia the plant family of malpighiaceae (Malpighiaceae). Carl von Linné later took over this name. He has also been the namesake of the Malpighi Glacier on the Brabant Island in Antarctica since 1960 .


Opere , 1687
  • Dissertatio epistolica de bombyce, societati regiae, Londini ad scientam naturalem doctorate institutae, dicata . Martin & Allestry, London 1669. Digitized version of the University and State Library Düsseldorf
  • Anatomy plantarum. Cui subjungitur appendix, iteratas & auctas ejusdem authoris de ovo incubato observationes continens. Regiae societati, Londini ad scientam naturalem doctorate institutae, dicata (2 vols.). Martin, London 1675–79, reprint in one volume: Culture et Civilization, Brussels 1968. Digitized from the Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • Opera omnia, seu Thesaurus locupletissimus botanico-medico-anatomicus, viginti quatuor tractatus complectens et in duos tomos distributus, quorum tractatuum seriem videre est dedicatione absolutâ (2 vols.). Scott & Wells, London 1686, reprint in one volume: Olms, Hildesheim and New York 1975, ISBN 3-487-05639-9 . Digitized version of the Leiden 1687 edition of the Biodiversity Heritage Library
    Marcello Malpighi, Opera omnia
  • P. Regis (Ed.): Opera posthuma, figuris aeneis illustrata. Quibus praefixa est ejusdem vita à seipso scripta . Churchill, London 1697. Digitized from the Biodiversity Heritage Library
  • Consultationum medicinalium centuria. Padua 1713 (posthumous).

See also

Editions and translations

  • Luigi Belloni (translator): Opere scelte di Marcello Malpighi. UTET, Torino 1967 (Italian translation of the Latin texts)
  • Luigi Belloni (ed.): Marcello Malpighi: De pulmonibus. Messina / Palermo 1958 (Latin text with Italian translation)
  • The anatomy of the plants . Edited by Martin Möbius . 2nd edition, Harri Deutsch, Thun / Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-8171-3120-8 .


  • Domenico Bertoloni Meli: Marcello Malpighi. Anatom and physician. Olschki, Florence 1997, ISBN 88-222-4544-X .
  • Howard B. Adelmann: The correspondence of Marcello Malpighi . 5 volumes. Cornell University Press, Ithaca (NY) 1975, ISBN 0-8014-0802-4
  • Howard B. Adelmann: Marcello Malpighi and the evolution of embryology . 5 volumes. Cornell University Press, Ithaca (NY) 1966.
  • Massimiliano Cardini: La vita e l'opera di Marcello Malpighi . Pozzi, Rome 1927.
  • Heinz-Peter Schmiedebach : Malpighi, Marcello. In: Werner E. Gerabek et al. (Ed.): Enzyklopädie Medizingeschichte. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2005, ISBN 3-11-015714-4 , pp. 887-889.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Francesco Trevisani: Malpighi, Marcello , in: Wolfgang U. Eckart and Christoph Gradmann (eds.): Ärztelexikon. From antiquity to the present , 3rd edition 2006 Springer Verlag Heidelberg, Berlin, New York pp. 220 + 221. doi : 10.1007 / 978-3-540-29585-3 .
  2. ^ Charles Plumier: Nova Plantarum Americanarum Genera . Leiden 1703, p. 46
  3. ^ Carl von Linné: Critica Botanica . Leiden 1737, p. 93
  4. Carl von Linné: Genera Plantarum . Leiden 1742, p. 194