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Oct 9 Father Gabriel Fallopio - Rennaisance Anatomist

Today in 1562 we remember the death of Father Gabriel Fallopio the most illustrious of 16th-century Italian anatomist died. He contributed greatly to early knowledge of the ear and of the reproductive organs His exhaustive observations, made during dissection of human cadavers lead to the discovering the tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus (now known as fallopian tubes) and several major nerves of the head and face. He described the semi-circular canals of the inner ear (responsible for maintaining body equilibrium) and gave a name to the vagina, placenta, clitoris, palate, and cochlea (the snail-shaped organ of hearing in the inner ear).

Falloppio was born in Modena and died in Padua. His family was noble but very poor and it was a struggle to obtain an education. He became a canon at Modena's cathedral and then studied medicine at the University of Ferrara, at that time one of the best medical schools in Europe. He received his medical doctorate in 1548 under the guidance of Antonio Musa Brassavola. After taking his degree he worked at various medical schools and then became professor of anatomy at Ferrara, and three years later was invited to occupy the chair of anatomy and surgery at the University of Padua.

At the time science of the human body was dominated by Galen's understanding of anatomy which was over 1300 years old. Medicine was principally influenced by his theory of the four humours: black bile, yellow bile, blood, and phlegm. Galen’s anatomical reports were based mainly on the dissection of Barbary apes. However, when he discovered that their facial expressions were too much like those of humans, he switched to other animals, such as pigs because a Roman law prohibited the dissection of human cadavers. His major contributions to medicine were his work on the circulatory system. Before Galen's research, it was believed that the arteries carry oxygen rather than blood. He was the first to recognize that there are distinct differences between venous (dark) and arterial (bright) blood. His anatomical work on animals led to some inaccuracies, most notably his anatomy of the uterus which largely resembled a dog's. Though incorrect in his studies of human reproduction and reproductive anatomy, however he came very close to identifying the ovaries as analogous to the male testes He had accurately describe the human spine, spinal cord, and vertebral column. Fallopius was very critical of Galen, and this resulted in a shift of attitude essential to the development of Renaissance medicine

Falloppio's own work dealt mainly with the anatomy of the head. The aquaeductus Fallopii, the canal through which the facial nerve passes after leaving the auditory nerve, is also named after him. He added much to what was known before about the internal ear and described in detail the tympanum and its relations to the osseous ring in which it is situated. He was the first to point out the connection between the mastoid cells and the middle ear. His description of the lacrimal ducts in the eye was a marked advance on those of his predecessors and he also gave a detailed account of the cells in the nose. He studied the reproductive organs in both sexes, and described the Fallopian tube, which leads from the ovary to the uterus and bears his name to this day. His contributions to practical medicine were also important. He was the first to use an aural speculum for the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the ear, and his writings on surgical subjects are still of interest. He published two treatises on ulcers and tumour's, and a treatise on surgery, amongst other things

The priest was regarded as somewhat of an authority in the field of sexuality. Fallopio was the first to describe a condom (in his writings, a linen sheath wrapped around the penis), and he advocated the use of such sheaths to prevent syphilis. In an early example of a clinical trial, Falloppio reported that he tested these condoms in 1,100 men, none of whom contracted syphilis.


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