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Book and Media Reviews
January 18, 2012

Mechanism, Experiment, Disease: Marcello Malpighi and Seventeenth-Century Anatomy

Author Affiliations

Book and Media Reviews Section Editor: John L. Zeller, MD, PhD, Contributing Editor.

Author Affiliation: Shadingfield, Suffolk, United Kingdom (helenjbynum@gmail.com).

JAMA. 2012;307(3):311. doi:10.1001/jama.2011.2033

A deft bit of microscopy secured Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694) a place in history. In 1628, William Harvey had published his famous book on the circulation of the blood. He was forced to argue that fine vessels—which he could not see—must join the arteries and veins in a continuous circle, around which the heart pumped the blood. In 1661, Malpighi announced that he had seen the connecting capillaries in the lungs of a frog. He had used both a magnifying lens and the “microscope of nature” to see these structures in an amphibian (where they are larger). He argued by analogy for their presence in mammals, although he never actually saw them.

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