Encyclopedia of Renaissance Philosophy

Living Edition
| Editors: Marco Sgarbi

Acquapendente, Girolamo Fabrici

Born: 1533, Acquapendente
Died: 21 May 1619, Padua
  • Alberto Zanatta
  • Gaetano ThieneEmail author
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-02848-4_393-1


Girolamo Fabrici was a physician, anatomist, surgeon, and pupil and successor of Falloppia in the anatomy chair in Padua, where he built the anatomical theater. He is remembered for the exact description of the valves of the veins (without understanding the correct function). His embryological research is also important, and so the observations on the physiology of the muscles of the limbs, the pupil’s motility, phonation, uterine anatomy, and childbirth are significant. In the field of surgery, he should be remembered for the tracheotomy and the machines built for orthopedic purposes.


Fabricius was born in Acquapendente, son of Fabricio. He moved to Padua in 1550 and he obtained the degree in medicine in 1559 (Salvadori 1837).

After the death of Gabriele Falloppia (1523–1562), who was his master, Fabricius was named lecturer in surgery on April 11, 1565, with the obligation to teach also the anatomy, chair that kept for 50 years (Favaro 1911–1912). He maintained the activity of teacher, surgeon, and esteemed practical physician. He is considered a pioneer in orthopedic field. He was the first anatomist to recognize the importance and the symbolic efficacy of the systematic anatomical illustration, leaving a big colored anatomical atlas. Nowadays, of this atlas remain 211 tables, of which 44 about his publications and 167 unpublished, all preserved in the Marciana National Library of Venice (Rippa Bonati 2015). The first permanent anatomical theater (1595), still preserved at the Bo Palace, is linked to Fabricius’ name, and it is considered an emblematic symbol of the demonstrative method in anatomy, and it was the model of other anatomical theaters that were built in the major European universities during the seventeenth century (Favaro 1922).

Fabricius applied the anatomo-comparative method in the anatomical research with great efficacy. He is also considered the father of the scientific embryology thanks to his two books, De formato foetu (1600a) and De formatione ovi et pulli (published in 1621 after his death).

The De formato foetu is a comparative study in which are described the ripest phases of the development in many animal species, with wonderful draws of the pregnant human uterus, extraembryonic tissues, and placenta. In De formatione ovi et pulli are illustrated the different phases of chick’s development starting from the sixth day, with different and excellent tables, that were considered the best before Marcello Malpighi’s ones. It is also described and illustrated for the first time the lymphatic organ of the birds that is called “Bursa of Fabricius”.

Fabricius contributed much to the field of surgery, thanks to his descriptions of the tracheotomy procedure, which is similar to that used today. He favored using a vertical incision and was the first to introduce the idea of a tracheostomy tube.

Fabricius highlighted also the passage from descriptive anatomy to functional anatomy with the books dedicated to sensory nervous system, phonation, and respiratory organs: the treatises De visione, voce, audito (1600b), De brutorum loquela (1603b), and De respiratione et eius instrumentis (1615). Fabricius was strongly interested to the problem of biological movement, and he wrote a little treatise, De motu locali animalium secundum totum (1618). His masterpiece is the De venarum ostiolis (1603a), in which he systematically studied the valves of the veins, drawing them as first with excellent outcomes, but the function was misunderstood. This book had an important influence on William Harvey (1578–1657), who used some of those pictures and also based lots of his arguments in support of the blood circulation on the function of the valves of the vein (Zampieri et al. 2013).

Innovative and Legacy

About Fabricius’ anatomical interests, it has also been observed that he, by dealing with different organs, did not make it clear whether he was talking about man or animal. This also denotes the peculiarity of his approach to that discipline which he wanted to treat in a “scientific” and not empirical manner, namely, describing the structure, function, and “causes” of the organ itself, regardless of whether they belong to man or animal, and therefore according to a concept of science as a true, universal explanation of the causes of the phenomenon in general, though derived from observing it in many different creatures.


Primary Literature

  1. Fabricius, Hieronymus. 1600a. De formato foetu. Venice: Franciscum Bolzettam.Google Scholar
  2. Fabricius, Hieronymus. 1600b. De visione, voce, audito. Venice: Franciscum Bolzettam.Google Scholar
  3. Fabricius, Hieronymus. 1603a. De venarum ostiolis. Padua: ex tipografia Laurenti Pasquati.Google Scholar
  4. Fabricius, Hieronymus. 1603b. De brutorum loquela. Venice: Franciscum Bolzettam.Google Scholar
  5. Fabricius, Hieronymus. 1615. De respiratione et eius instrumentis. Padua.Google Scholar
  6. Fabricius, Hieronymus. 1618. De motu locali animalium secundum totum. Padua: J.B. de Martinis.Google Scholar
  7. Fabricius, Hieronymus. 1621. De formatione ovi et pulli. Venice.Google Scholar

Secondary Literature

  1. Salvadori, Luciano. 1837. De Hieronymo Fabricio ab Aquapendente notitiae historico-scientificae. Padua.Google Scholar
  2. Favaro, Antonio. 1911–1912. Acta nationis Germanicae artistarum. Venice.Google Scholar
  3. Favaro, Giuseppe. 1922. Contributi alla biografia di Girolamo Fabrici d’ Acquapendente. Padova: La Garangola.Google Scholar
  4. Rippa Bonati, Maurizio. 2015. Fabrici d’Acquapendente Girolamo. In Clariores, ed. Piero Del Negro, 146–147. Padua: Padova University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Zampieri, F., A. Zanatta, M. ElMaghawry, M. Rippa Bonati, and G. Thiene. 2013. Origin and development of modern medicine at the University of Padua and the role of the “Serenissima” Republic of Venice. Global Cardiology Science and Practice 3: 1–14.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular SciencesUniversity of Padua Medical SchoolPaduaItaly

Section editors and affiliations

  • Hiro Hirai
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for the History of Philosophy and ScienceRadboud Universiteit NijmegenNijmegenThe Netherlands