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Vincenzo Malacarne

(Saluzzo, 28.9.1744 – Padua, 4.9.1816)

The name of Malacarne is linked in particular to research in the field of neuroanatomy: to him we owe the first detailed description of the cerebellum, with the introduction of new anatomical terms that have become of common use
(flocculus, tonsil, pyramid, lingula, uvula, gracile, or thin, lobule, biventer lobule). The name of the Malacarne pyramid (or Malacarne Crusader eminence) still refers to the central portion of the inferior vermis of the cerebellum.

The “Nuova esposizione della vera struttura del cervelletto umano“(New exposition of the true structure of the human cerebellum) was published in 1776 and was followed in 1780 by The new universal Encephalotomy. These works brought him fame in Europe, to the point of being cited in the works of many anatomists and physiologists of the time, such as Félix Vicq d’Azyr, one of the founders of comparative anatomy, and Albrecht von Haller, the leader of modern physiology.

When he arrived in Padua in 1794 Malacarne was therefore a scientist already known both in Italy and abroad, thanks to the dense network of relationships he had woven with the leading intellectuals of the time. After a period in Piedmont and four years at the University of Pavia, the anatomist then stayed in Padua for 22 years as professor of theoretical and practical surgery, clinic and surgical operations. In 1806 he moved to the chair of surgical institutions and obstetric art and was appointed director of the university’s obstetric museum, a collection still partly preserved in the University.

In addition to brain morphology, he wrote about cardiology, surgery and comparative anatomy. He also devoted himself to the study of mental disorders and examined numerous cases of cretinism. In several publications he dealt with monstrosity and malformations, giving a classification of monstrosities based on the exterior form of the monstrous body, introducing a new nomenclature, many terms of which are still used today.