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Girolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente

(Acquapendente, 1533 – Padua, 21.05.1619)

Girolamo Fabrici d’Acquapendente arrived to Padua from the province of Viterbo in around 1550. After just a few years, he was awarded a doctorate in medicine from the city’s university (1559). Following the death of his mentor, Gabriele Falloppia, in 1565, he was appointed professor of surgery at the University of Padova, with the obligation to also teach anatomy.
He taught for approximately fifty years at the same time as carrying out his work as a surgeon and doctor (he is considered a forerunner in the field of orthopaedics and, as a doctor, he followed various illustrious individuals of the time, including Galileo and Paolo Sarpi). He is considered an emblematic figure of the transition phase between Renaissance anatomy and 17th century anatomy.
During his professorship in Padua, the permanent Anatomy Theatre was built (1595), which remained operational until 1874. This lecture hall-lab, which is still perfectly preserved inside Palazzo Bo, symbolised the demonstrative method used to teach anatomy and served as a model for other anatomy theatres that were built in Europe’s most important universities during the 17th century. In the field of anatomical research, Fabrici effectively applied the comparative anatomy model which he describes in two of his works, “De formato fetu” (1600) and “De formatione ovi et pulli” (1621), leading him to be defined as the initiator of scientific embryology. Fabrici also marked the transition from descriptive anatomy to functional anatomy, as shown by his numerous works dedicated to the sensory organs, speech organs and the respiratory system, but also his precise representation of vein valves (despite not understanding their actual function at the time), physiological observations on muscles in the limbs and observations on the anatomy of the uterus and childbirth.