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Joahann Georg Wirsung

(Augsburg, 3.7.1589 – Padua, 22.8.1643)

This doctor, surgeon, anatomist and the man who discovered the major pancreatic duct is one of the foreign students depicted in Palazzo Bo’s Sala dei Quaranta.

He was German and studied under Kaspar Hofmann in Altdorf and under the anatomist Jean Riolan Junior in Paris before coming to Padua in November 1629. He graduated in philosophy and medicine in March 1630. He definitively settled in Padua, where he practised medicine and surgery and privately dissected bodies. During one of these dissections in March 1642, in the presence of two students from the Natio GermanicaWirsung discovered the major pancreatic duct, which is still named after him today. In the same year, he had a drawing of the duct engraved onto a sheet of copper, which is still now preserved at the University of Padova.

This sheet was used to make prints that the anatomist sent to his most important colleagues across Europe, asking for their opinion. These prints were supposed to be followed by a more widespread dissertation on the function of the duct. However, Wirsung never got to finish this work as he was assassinated on his doorstep by the Belgian student Jacques Cambier, from the Natio Germanica, who shot him with a rifle.

In addition to the copper sheet proving his discovery, Padua is also home to his mortal remains and cenotaph in St. Anthony’s Basilica. Wirsung wrote 446 works and also carried out experiments on blood circulation.


The restoration of the Johann Georg Wirsung canvas has been supported by Ordine dei Medici Chirurghi e degli Odontoiatri della provincia di Padova