Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

Gabriele Falloppio (Fallopius, 1523–1562)

In the days when the outcome of an oral examination could have depended on the caprices of a whimsical professor, candidates in obstetrics–gynecology might have been asked who first described the tube that leads from the ovary to the uterus, or perhaps who was Dr. Fallopius. Such a mishap is unlikely to happen in this scientific age when eponymous names are out of fashion and many young people believe that nothing is important if it is not relevant or if it happened before they were born.

It is therefore with some diffidence that one might note that the person who first described the tube in question lived about half a millennium ago. Surviving pictures show a man sporting a forbidding beard and mustache even though he was only thirty-nine years old when he died. Born in Mantua, Gabriele Falloppio had been professor of anatomy in Ferrara before being appointed to the more prestigious professorship at Pisa and then to the even more prestigious professorship of anatomy and surgery at Padua, the chair formerly occupied by Andreas Vesalius and Renaldo Columbo. In that day when it was possible for a man to become proficient in many human endeavors, Fallopius was also professor of botany and superintendent of the botanical gardens in the same city.

But anatomy was his main work. Dissecting cadavers from top to bottom he described much of the structure of the middle ear, some part of the eye, also muscles and bones, and the reproductive organs of both sexes. He wrote on ulcers and tumors, on healthful mineral waters, on the drugs and purgatives, and on the prevalent disease of his time, syphilis, which to prevent he advocated the use of a condom, based on a study of eleven-hundred men.

GEORGE DUNEA, MD, Editor-in-Chief

Fall 2017



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