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Malpighi, Marcello

system lung capillary time

[mal pee gee] (1628–94) Italian biologist; discovered capillary blood vessels.

Born in the year in which published his De motu cordis (1628, On the Motions of the Heart) describing the circulation of blood in mammals, Malpighi graduated at Bologna in philosophy, and then in medicine in 1653. From 1666 he was professor of medicine there, and the Royal Society of London began to publish his work, largely based on his microscopy and carried out in the 1660s and 1670s. In 1660 he began his studies of lung tissue, and the next year used frog lung. This was well suited to the early microscope, which had developed in time after 1600 but was optically poor; much of the best work in the 1650s was done using a single lens rather than a compound system. Frog lung is almost transparent, with a simple and conspicuous capillary system. Malpighi was able to observe the latter for the first time and to see that it was linked to the venous system on one side and to the arterial system on the other, thereby vindicating and completing Harvey’s work on the animal circulation. Later he studied the skin, nerves, brain, liver, kidney and spleen, identifying new structures. In 1669 he gave the first full account of an insect (the silkworm moth) and then began his work on the chick embryo. In the 1670s he turned to plant anatomy, discovering stomata in leaves and describing the development of the plant embryo.

[back] Malory, Sir Thomas (140?–1471) - BIOGRAPHY, CRITICAL RECEPTION

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