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Mondino dei Luzzi (1275-1326)

Italian physician and anatomist whose Anathomia Mundini (MS. 1316; first printed in 1478) was the first European book written since classical antiquity that was entirely devoted to anatomy and was based on the dissection of human cadavers. It remained a standard text until the time of the Flemish anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514–64).

Mondino received his medical training at the University of Bologna, and after graduation he studied and taught anatomy and surgery at that university while actively practicing medicine and surgery. Mondino was the first to reintroduce the systematic teaching of anatomy into the medical curriculum after this practice had been abandoned for many centuries. He himself performed dissections at public lectures. Mondino’s Anathomia was written in 1316 and became the standard handbook for the dissector, going through 39 editions in all. The work followed the anatomical teachings of Galen slavishly, and its descriptions of internal organs were sometimes inaccurate, but it inaugurated a new era in the dissemination of anatomical knowledge.


Mondino was born in Bologna into a tuscan family from Florence with loyalties to the Ghibellines. In 1321 he became a Professor of Medicine at the University of Bologna. As such he reintroduced the practice of the Alexandrian School, emphasizing the importance of dissection by performing a series of public dissections in the early part of the 14th century. He systemized dissection and in 1315 published a manual called Anathomia (also known as De Anatome) which, due to the clarity of its text, became the literature of choice in nearly all European medical schools for three centuries after his time, running to a dozen or so editions, with successive commentaries by Achillini, Berengario and Johann Dryander. It became such an authority that anything not represented was declared anomalous. Mondino's practice was to read from a text (from Galen or one of his commentators) while seated in a professorial chair, with a barber-surgeon carrying out the actual dissection and a demonstrator pointing out parts referred to. In Anathomia he divides the body into three cavities (ventres) - the abdomen, thorax and the upper, comprising the head and appendages. His general manner was to briefly note the situation and shape or distribution of textures or membranes, and then to mention the disorders to which they are subject. The peritoneum he describes under the name of siphac, in imitation of Avicenna and Rhazes, the omentum as zirbus, and the mesentery or eucharus as distinct from both. In speaking of the intestines he describes the rectum, colon, sigmoid flexure (of which, as well as the transverse arch and its relation to the stomach, he particularly remarks), then the caecum or monoculus, and the small intestine divided into ileum, jejunum, and duodenum. The liver and its vessels are minutely, if not very accurately, examined, and the cava, under the name chilis, a corruption from the Greek koile, is treated at length, with the 'emulgents' (kidneys).

Mondino's anatomy of the heart is remarkably accurate, to the extent that he seems to describe rudimentary circulation of the blood, although he immediately repeats the old assertion that the left ventricle ought to contain pneuma or air, generated from the blood. His osteology of the skull is rather erroneous, but his account of the cerebral meninges, though short, describes the principal characters of the dura mater. He briefly describes the lateral ventricles, their anterior and posterior cornua, and the choroid plexus as a blood-red substance like a long worm. He then speaks of the third ventricle, and one posterior, which seems to correspond with the fourth; and describes the infundibulum under the names of lacuna and emboton. On the base of the brain he describes the mammillary bodies and seven pairs of cranial nerves (which seem to correspond to the optic, oculomotor, abducens, trigeminal, facial, vagus and glossopharyngeal nerves).