Malpighi, Marcellus

, an Italian physician and anatomist, was born March 10, 1628, at Crevalcuore, near Bologna, in Italy, where he was taught Latin and studied philosophy. In 1649, losing his parents, and being obliged to choose his own method of life, he determined to apply himself to physic. The university of Bologna was then supplied with very learned professors in that science, particularly Bartholomew Massari, and Andrew Mariano, under whose instructions Malpighi in a short time made great progress in physic and anatomy. After he had finished the usual course, he was admitted doctor of physic, April 6, 1653, In 1655 Massari died, a loss which Malpighi severely felt, as independent of his esteem for him as a master, he had become more nearly related to him by marrying his sister. In 1656, the senate of Bologna gave him a professorship, which he did not long hold; for the same year the grand duke of Tuscany invited him to Pisa, to be professor of physic there. Here he contracted a strict friendship with Borelli, whom he subsequently owned for his master in philosophy, and to whom he ascribed all the discoveries which he afterwards made. They dissected animals together, and it was in this employment that he found the heart to consist of spiral fibres; a discovery, which has been ascribed to Borelli in his posthumous works. The air of Pisa not agreeing with Malpighi, be continued there but three years: and, in 1659, returned to Bologna, to resume his former posts, notwithstanding the advantageous offers which were made him to stay at Pisa. In 1662 he was sent for to Messina, in order to succeed Peter Castello, first professor of physic, who was just dead. It. was with reluctance that he went thither, though the stipend was great; and although he was prevailed on at last by his friend Borelli, to accept it, yet in 1666 he returned to Bologna. In 1669 he was elected a member of the royal society of London, with which he ever after kept a correspondence by letters, and communicated his discoveries in anatomy. Cardinal Pignatelli, who had known him while he was legate at Bologna, being chosen pope in 1691, under the name of Innocent XII. immediately sent for him to Rome, and appointed him his physician. In 1694 he was admitted into the academy of the Arcadians at Rome. July the 25th, of the same year, he had a fit, which struck half his body with a paralysis; and, November the 29th following, he had another, of which he died the same | day, in his 67th year. His remains were embalmed, and conveyed to Bologna, where they were interred with great funeral honours in the chureh of St. Gregory, and a statue was erected to his memory. Malpighi is described as a man of a serious and melancholy temperament, which is confirmed by his portrait in the meeting-room of the royal society at Somerset-house. He was indefatigable in the pursuit of knowledge, on the sure ground of experience and observation, ever candid in his acknowledgments to those who had given him any information, and devoid of all ostentation or pretension on the score of his own merits. He ranks very high among the philosophers of the physiological age in which he lived, when nature began to be studied instead of books, and the dreams of the schools. Hence arose the discoveries of the circulation of the blood, the absorbent system of the animal body, and the true theory of generation. To such improvements the investigations of Malpighi, relative to the anatomy and transformation of insects, particularly the silk-worm, and the developement of the chick in the egg, lent no small aid. From these inquiries he was led to the anatomy and physiology of plants, in which he is altogether an original, as well as a very profound, observer. His line of study was the same as that of Grew, but these philosophers laboured independent of each other, and their frequent coincidence evinces the accuracy of both.

The first work which he published in 1661, and which was afterwards frequently reprinted, comprised his microscopical observations relative to the intimate structure of the lungs, and was entitled “Observationes Anatomicse de l*ulmonibus,” fol. He published separate tracts concerning the brain, the tongue, the external organ of touch, the omentum, throat, and the adipose ducts, between the years 1661 and 1665; and subsequently, other tracts, respecting the structure of the viscera, the kidneys, spleen, liver, membranes of the brain, &c.

In 1669, when he became a fellow of our royal society, his essay “de formatione pulli in ovo” was first printed, in London, in quarto, as well as his remarks on the “Bombyx” or silk-worm, and “De Glandulis conglobads,” forming his three “Dissertationes Epistolicae.” His “Anatome Piantarum,” addressed to the royal society, accompanied by observations on the incubation of the egg, was published by that learned body in folio, with wurny plates, in 1675 | and 1679. His works were republished at London in 1686, making two folio volumes and more correctly at Amsterdam, in 1687, 4to, and a posthumous volume appeared Jiere, accompanied with an account of his life, in 1697, of which a re-impression was given at Venice, and another at Leyden, the ensuing year. Some other dissertations are to be found in the “Bibliotheca Anatomica,” published by Le Clerc and Manget at Geneva in 1685; especially “De Cornuum Vegetgtione,” “DeUtero et Viviparorum Avis;” and “Epistolae quaedam circa illam de ovo dissertationem.” His only medical work, “Consultationum Medicinalium Centuria prima,” was edited by Gaspari, in 1713, 4to, Patau. He is not, indeed, distinguished as a practitioner, but he deserves praise for pointing out the mischiefs of blood-letting, in the malignant epidemics prevalent in Italy in his time. An edition of the whole of his works was printed at Venice, in 1733, in folio, by Gavinelli. 1


Life prefixed to his “Opera Posthnma,” Loud. 1697. Rees’s Cyclopædia. —Fabroni Vitae Italorum, vol. III. —Niceron, vol. IV. Ward’s Greshatn Professors, p. 320. Thomson’s Hist, of the Royal Society. —Eloy, —Dict. Hist. de la Medicine.