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Giovanni Battista Morgagni

(Forlì, 25.2.1682 – Padua, 5.12.1771)

The anatomist from Forlì, known for having laid the foundations of modern pathological anatomy, was just sixteen when he moved to Bologna where, on 16th July 1701, he graduated in philosophy and medicine.
He was called to Padua in 1711 to teach theoretical medicine in the chair that was vacant due to the transfer of Antonio Vallisneri senior. Four years later he obtained the first chair of anatomy, which he held until his death.

Giovanni Battista Morgagni

Giovanni Battista Morgagni

His most important work is De sedibus et causis morborum for anatomen investigatis (1761), in which he exposes the anatomical-clinical method linked to his name and which includes seventy “medical-anatomical letters”, in each of which he considers a morbid or syndromic entity, presenting around seven hundred cases in all. In dealing with the cases, Morgagni made an almost complete revision of previous literature, comparing it with his own observations and making comparative examinations, first separately between anatomical findings and clinical symptoms and then establishing links between them.

The treatise describes many syndromes for the first time, such as the rare permanent pulse with epileptic crises, today called Morgagni-Adams-Stokes syndrome; liver cirrhosis, frontal hyperostosis, various species of aneurysms, gastric ulcer, lobar pneumonia, acute yellow atrophy of the liver, renal tuberculosis, contralateral localization of brain injuries in hemiplegia, and much more.

Morgagni taught in Padua for almost 50 years and in 1770 he decided to buy a tomb inside the church of San Massimo, not far from the house where he lived, for himself, his family, but also for those university professors of Padua who needed a burial. When the tomb was first opened in 1868, 11 skulls and other bone remains were found.