History of the University of Padua Medical School
The discovery of blood circulation by William Harvey (1578-1657) marked the beginning of human physiology in the modern sense. Before this discovery, Galen theory postulated that arteries and veins were two separated systems. He thought that venous blood was generated in the liver, from where it was distributed and consumed by all organs of the body, and that a “spirit” circulated in arteries which was a mixture of blood passing trough the pores in inter-ventricular septum and air coming from the pulmonary vein. While being a scholar of Fabrici d’Acquapendente in Padua, Harvey first conceived the idea of blood circulation that was later published in his famous book: Exercitatio anatomica de motu cordis et sanguinis in animalibus (Anatomical essay on heart and blood movement in animals, 1628). Harvey supported his theory with the discovery by Fabrici of the valves of veins and with the application of Aristotelian concepts on circular movement, which he learned in Padua. It is noteworthy that Harvey used a mathematical and quantitative approach in his researches, scientific method well established in Padua thanks to the teachings of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who was professor of mathematics (1592-1610) at the time of Harvey stay in Padua. In the XVIII century, Padua witnessed a further fundamental advancement in medicine: the shift from merely studying the normal anatomy and physiology to analysing the natural history of disease and understanding sick structures and functions.
(1682-1771), professor of Anatomy in Padua Medical School, introduced the anatomo-clinical method, which still represents an up-to-date scientific approach of combining basic research and clinical practice. Celebrated as the father of physiopathology, Morgagni’s pathological anatomy was deeply clinically and physiologically oriented. The principles of Morgagni were based on the idea that altered functions cause deformities in organs, which in turn were the cause of clinical phenomena. In Morgagni’s masterpiece, De sedibus et causis morborum per anatomen indagatis (Seats and causes of diseases investigated by anatomy, 1761), cardiovascular pathology plays a prominent role. Morgagni first described the trilogy of Fallot and a rarity of the pulse which will be recognized as the Morgagni-Adams-Stokes syndrome (av block). He gave interesting descriptions and interpretations of syphilitic aortitis, dissecting aneurysm, atherosclerosis, valvulopathies and other cardiovascular diseases.
Bernardino Ramazzini (1633-1714), Professor of Theoretical Medicine in the times of Morgagni, with his book De morbis Artificum diatriba (Discussion on the disease of workers, 1700) founded occupational medicine. The development of this approach can be recognized as a further step towards the concept that diseases occur due to specific causes in the setting of peculiar contexts. As regards the period between XIX and XX century, the development of constitutional medicine occurred byAchille de Giovanni (1838-1916), Paduan clinician, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Magnificent Rector. This approach was the basis for the study about the hereditary of diseases and also for the development of endocrinology. The individual “constitution” was designed as a set of morphological, functional and psychological characteristics of the patient, as well as the family history, that is currently explained by genetic heritage. The different constitutional types were examined in particular with anthropometric instruments for detecting the proportions between different parts of the body, harmonies and disharmonies of the development as possible sources of “morbidity”. Constitutional medicine reserved a special attention to endocrinology, considering hormones as essential ingredients in the individual and psychological development and constitution. Nicola Pende (1880-1970), father of modern endocrinology, was student of De Giovanni.es.
In the last century, with the introduction of anesthesiology and surgery, Padua remained in the vanguard. Thanks to Vincenzo Gallucci (1935-1991), the late prominent cardiothoracic surgeon, the first heart transplantion in Italy took place in Padua in 1985. All through its history, Padua adhered to the principles of intellectual liberty, proper scientific methodology and universal tolerance (libertas docendi et investigandi: freedom of teaching and searching). Today, when medicine has become a global scientific phenomenon, these principles remain the solid foundation for further scientific achievements and prosperity of humankind.
Professor of Pathology
Director, Cardiovascular Pathology Unit
Director, PhD School “Translational Specialistic Medicine – G.B. Morgagni”
Director, Cardio-Cerebro-Vascular Pathology Registry, Department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Sciences
Deputy Councilor for Historical Tradition and International Image of the Medical School, University of Padua, Padua, Italy
Deputy Councilor, Summer School, University of Padua Medical School, Padua, Italy
University of Padua Medical School
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Zampieri, F. – Zanatta, A. – Elmaghawry, M. – Rippa Bonati, M. – Thiene, G. (2013), Origin and Development of Modern Medicine at the University of Padua and the Role of the “Serenissima” Republic of Venice, “Global Cardiology Science and Practice”, 3, 21, pp. 1-14.
THIENE, G. (1996), Cardiovascular Pathology in the Land of Doges, “Cardiovascular Pathology”, 5, 5, pp. 281-283.
Some protagonist of the University of Padua Medical School
ZANATTA, A. – ZAMPIERI, F. – ZAMPIERI, G. – GIULIODORI, A. – THIENE, G. – CAENAZZO, L. (2014), Identification of Giovanni Battista Morgagni remains following historical, anthropological and molecular studies, “Virchows Archiv” (epub ahead of print).
ZAMPIERI, F. – ZANATTA, A. – THIENE, G. (2014), An Etymological “Autopsy” of Morgagni’s Title: De Sedibus et Causis Morborum per Anatomen Indagatis (1761), “Human Pathology”, 45, 1, pp. 12-16.
ZAMPIERI, F. – ZANATTA, A. – SCATTOLIN, G. – STRAMARE, R. – THIENE, G. (2013), Diego Rivera’s Fresco and the Case taken from Morgagni’s De sedibus, “The American Journal of Cardiology”, 112, 5, pp. 735-736.
ZAMPIERI, F. – BASSO, C. – THIENE, G. (2014), Andreas Vesalius’ Tabulae anatomicae sex (1538) and the seal of the American College of Cardiology, “Journal of the American College of Cardiology”, 63, 7, pp. 694-695.
ZAMPIERI, F. – ZANATTA, A. (2013), Surgery, Pathology and Art in Pietro Gradenigo’s Ophthalmological Waxworks, “JAMA Ophthalmology”, 131, 11, pp. 1474-1475.