Brief History of Pavia and Its University

Paolo Mazzarello
Chair, Local Arrangements Committee

Pavia is situated in the Ticino river banks at 35 km from Milan. During the Roman Empire it was called Ticinum, for the name of its river, and in the sixth century it became the capital of the Longobards kingdom. After a long siege Charlemagne conquered the city, which remained capital during the following Caroulingian and Saxon Empires, and several kings were crowned in Pavian St. Michael's church.

In 825 the emperor Lotarius founded at Pavia a School of Rhetoric and Law that would play an important role during the high Middle Ages. The Pavian juridical tradition continued in the successive centuries, and was connected to the philosopher and theologian Lanfranco from Pavia who became prior of the monastery of Le Bec in Normandy in 1045 and Archbishop of Canterbury in 1070 at the request of William the Conquerer.

The University of Pavia dates back to an act of foundation by Emperor Charles IV in 1361 where it is prescribed that students, rectors, doctors, and functionaries can be admitted to the same privileges and immunities enjoyed by the students of Paris, Bologna, Oxford, Orléans and Montpellier and to them would be extended the protection of the Holy Roman Emperor.

During the centuries the University of Pavia flourished and it was renowned for the great physicists, mathematicians, writers, and jurists who had studied and taught here such as Lorenzo Valla, Gerolamo Cardano, Cesare Beccaria and Alessandro Volta. However above all, the glory of the University of Pavia rested on the achievements of its biologists and physicians. Among them the most famous are Giovan Battista Carcano Leone, the discoverer of the foramen ovale and the ductus arteriosus in the fetal heart, Gaspare Aselli, the discoverer of the lymphatic system, Lazzaro Spallanzani, one of the founder of experimental biology, Antonio Scarpa, the great anatomist, Bartolomeo Panizza, the discoverer of the visual area in the occipital cortex, Camillo Golgi, one of the founder of the modern neuroscience, Enrico Sertoli, famous histologist, and the neurobiologists Adelchi Negri ("Negri bodies" of rabies), Carlo Martinotti ("Martinotti's cells" of the cerebral cortex), Vittorio Marchi ("Marchi's degeneration method").

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

Pavia, Italy, 2006