A glimpse at the teaching of G.F. D'Acquapendente (1533-1619) on the nervous system

Giorgio ZANCHIN1 and Monica PANETTO2
1Department of Neurosciences, University of Padua, Italy.  giorgio.zanchin AT unipd.it
2Institute of History of Medicine, University of Padua, Italy.  monica.panetto AT unipd.it

Despite the fact that neither a systematic description nor an iconographic record regarding the brain, the spinal cord, and the peripheral nerves were found to be published by Fabrici, if we exclude the 21 coloured paintings of neurological subject matter stored at St. Mark’s Library in Venice, two lists of manuscripts, respectively contained in the testament of 1615 and in a letter of 1622 written by the Rettori to the Riformatori dello Studio di Padova, demonstrate that Fabrici had composed neurological works. In the first list, three manuscripts that deal with neurological subjects are cited: De Capitis facultatibus, earumdemque actionibus, et proprio ac praecipuo actionum organo; De communibus Instrumentis, ut puta Venis, Arteriis, et Nervis in totus corpus discurrentibus; and De instrumento Odoratus. In the latter one, five are cited: De Cerebro, et Anatomia Cerebri; De fantasia; De Intelectu; De memoria; and De nervis. None of these manuscripts have been found, until now.

During research conducted six years ago on Gabriele Falloppia at the Municipality Library of Siena, a manuscript from the XVI century attributed to Fabrici was found, containing 85 leaves; it bears on page 1 the title De methodo anatomico Excellentissimi Aquapendentis anno 1585, and on page 22 that of De anathomia quaedam excerpta sub excellentissimo Aquapendente anno 1584. Under this title are 4 chapters: “De nervis”, “De nervis brachii”, “De nervis cruris”, and “De capite”, illustrated with 13 anatomical sketches.

It does not appear to be a manuscript by Fabrici, but instead a collection of notes taken by an unknown pupil; however, its interest remains noticeable. It allows us to appreciate, at least partially, the teaching method of d’Acquapendente; moreover, it constitutes the only written description, although indirect, of neuroanatomical structures by the renowned anatomist of Padua University.

Session IX.  Italian Heritage and the Galvani-Volta Controversy
Saturday, 24 June 2006, 3.15 - 3.40 pm

11th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the History of the Neurosciences (ISHN)

Pavia, Italy, 2006