Virchows Archiv

, Volume 465, Issue 5, pp 501–508 | Cite as

Identification of Giovanni Battista Morgagni remains following historical, anthropological, and molecular studies

  • Alberto Zanatta
  • Fabio Zampieri
  • Girolamo Zampieri
  • Alice Giuliodori
  • Gaetano Thiene
  • Luciana Caenazzo
Original Article


Morgagni died on December 5, 1771, 89 years old, and was buried in Saint Maxim Church in Padua, where his wife and five of his 15 children, four daughters, and one son were already buried. In 1868 and 1900, the tomb was opened to identify Morgagni. Among the remains of several adult individuals, two skulls considered of very old persons were identified and replaced in an earthenware jar inside the sepulcher. In 2011, we opened the tomb and found the remains described during the first two identifications, but additionally, we found the skulls fragments of three very young individuals which could have been Morgagni’s children. An anthropological analysis confirmed that one of the skulls inside the earthenware jar belonged to the oldest individuals (“senilis”) between those found in the tomb. A genetic analysis proved a kinship between this skull and the fragments of young individuals (one male and two females), supporting the hypothesis that they were Morgagni and his children. In conclusion, thanks to the interaction between historical studies, anthropological research, and molecular analysis that reinforce each other, we can assume that the skull is Giovanni Battista Morgagni’s and that the series of skull fragments are from his children who were buried together with their parents.


Morgagni Anthropological analysis Genetic analysis Historical analysis 



The authors express their gratitude to Antonio Mattiazzo, Archbishop of Padua, and to Giovanni Brusegan, Rector of the Saint Maxim Church, for allowing the opening of the tomb to identify the Morgagni’s remains.

Conflict of interest

We declare that we have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alberto Zanatta
    • 1
  • Fabio Zampieri
    • 1
  • Girolamo Zampieri
    • 2
  • Alice Giuliodori
    • 3
  • Gaetano Thiene
    • 1
  • Luciana Caenazzo
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular SciencesUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly
  2. 2.Padua Archeological MuseumPaduaItaly
  3. 3.Department of Molecular MedicineUniversity of PaduaPaduaItaly

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