Giovanni Battista Morgagni (1682-1771)

Credit: Wellcome Library, London

Italian physician Giovanni Battista Morgagni pioneered pathological anatomy. He kept a medical diary of his studies and observations as a student at the University of Bologna. He later expanded this method into compilations of his cases.

Morgagni became Professor of Anatomy at the famous University of Padua. He conducted extensive diagnostic sessions with patients as well as postmortem examinations of over 700 cases. He wanted to discover the underlying anatomical lesions of the diseases the patient had suffered from. His 1761 book De sedibus et causis morborum per anatomen indagatis (The Seats and Causes of Diseases Investigated by Anatomy, 1761) contained the results of 60 years of scientific labour. In it Morgagni argued it was important to establish the correlation between these lesions and patients’ symptoms to understand the causes of disease.