Marcello Malpighi

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Marcello Malpighi (March 10, 1628 – November 29, 1694) was an Italian doctor, who gave his name to several physiological features, like the Malpighian tubule system.

Contents

Early years

Malpighi was born in Crevalcore near Bologna in Italy, raised on the farm his parents owned and entered the University of Bologna at the age of 17. Malpighi began to study.When his father, mother and paternal grandmother died, he had to abandon his studies for more than two years to settle family affairs. He returned to university after two years, and became a doctor of medicine in 1653. The next year he married Francesca Massari, a younger sister of his anatomy professor. She died a year later.

Academic career

In 1656 Malpighi received a chair of medical practice in the university, three years after he had applied for it, and later the same year University of Pisa created a chair of theoretical medicine for him. He stayed in Pisa for three years and then returned to Bologna. In 1661 he was called to University of Messina where he stayed for four years.

Most of Malpighi's research results were published as articles in the journal of the Royal Society of England. His first article appeared there in 1661 and was about the anatomy of the lung of a frog during which he had discovered capillaries. In 1667 Henry Oldenburg invited Malpighi to correspond with the Royal Society regularly and he became a fellow the next year, the first such recognition given to an Italian.

Research

Malpighi used the microscope for studies on skin, kidney, and for the first interspecies comparison of the liver. He greatly extended the science of embryology. The use of microscopes enabled him to describe the development of the chick in its egg, and discovered that insects (particularly, the silk worm) do not use lungs to breathe, but small holes in their skin called tracheae. Later he falsely concluded that plants had similar tubules. However, he observed that when a ringlike portion of bark was removed on a trunk a swelling of the tissues would occur above the ring. He correctly interpreted this as growth stimulated by food coming down from the leaves, and being blocked above the ring. He was the first to see capillaries and discovered the link between arteries and veins that had eluded William Harvey.

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