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Gabriello Fallopio (1523-62)

Fallopio was an innovative and highly influential anatomist and physician, now overshadowed by his contemporary and friend Andreas Vesalius. The student Fallopio seemed destined for a career in the clergy before switching his studies to medicine. His talent for dissection was soon recognised, and earned him the right to practise as a surgeon. He was appointed Professor of Anatomy at Pisa in 1548 on the recommendation of one of his wealthiest patients, the grand duke of Tuscany. Three years later he took the same post at the prestigious University of Padua.

Fallopio principally studied the anatomy of the head. However, investigating the structure of human reproductive organs is his most enduring legacy. He accurately described the pair of fine channels through which eggs pass from the ovaries to the uterus, and they still bear his name: Fallopian tubes.

He died in Padua aged 40, probably from tuberculosis. Only one of his written works, the Observationes anatomicae of 1561, was published in his lifetime. However, Fallopio’s collected writings were edited and produced in the years after his death. Among them was a treatise on syphilis, published in 1564. It includes the first reference to the wearing of condom-like devices to protect against the disease.

 

Related links

Bibliography

M Thiery, ‘Gabriele Fallopio (1523–1562) and the Fallopian tube’, Gynaecological Surgery, 6/1 (Feb 2009), pp 93-95

Glossary:

Anatomy

A branch of medical science concerned with the structure of living organisms.

Tuberculosis

An infectious disease that is caused by a bacterium first identified by Robert Koch in 1882. The disease usually affects the lungs first, and is accompanied by a chronic cough.

Syphilis

A sexually transmitted infection resulting in the formation of lesions throughout the body.