Giovanni Battista Morgagni


Portrait of Giovanni Battista Morgagni

Giovanni Battista Morgagni was a professor of anatomy in Padua, Italy at the University of Venice. At the age of 80 he summarized his life work in a five volume De Sedibus et Causis Morborum per Anatomen Indagatis (1762). In it he wrote about a number of cases of speechlessness associated with apoplexy and head trauma. One case:

…scarcely spoke at all, and when he did, he stammer’d but he answered in such a manner by nods and signs, to those who ask’d him questions, that you might perceive his internal senses to be strong and perfect (Benton & Joynt, 1960)

He attributed stuttering to deviations in the hyoid bone, a conclusion he came to through his autopsy work.

In his writing about Morgagni, Hans Von Laden (1981) comments as follows:

[Morgagni] was the last and the greatest of the celebrated professors who made Padua the leading medical school of Europe. This remarkable investigator may be regarded as the second founder of laryngology, so completely did he initiate and pursue the study of the subject. Morgagni was the first to notice the posterior or oblique fibers of the arytenoid muscles: he also described the cuneiform cartilages, the epiglottic glands, the pharyngo-epiglottic ligament, the ventricular bands, the ventricles and other laryngeal structures. He correctly pointed out that the ventricles of the larynx probably acted as a reservoir of mucus to lubricate the vocal cords. His painstaking observations called attention to the larynx as the primary site of disease and formed the basis of laryngeal pathology (von Laden, p. 176).

Writings by Morgagni

Morgagni, G (1761) De Sedibus et Causis Morborum

Writings about Morgagni

Nuland, Sherwin (1988). Doctors: the biography of medicine. NY: Alfred A. Knopf.

Von Leden, H. (1981) From Galen to Gutzmann, Hals-Näse-Ohre Praxis 6 175-178.

Whitaker, H. A. (2001) Topics in 17th century neuropsychology: Giovanni Battista Morgagni and the origins of clinico-pathologic correlation, Tennet, June (Montréal, Canada)

Whitaker H. A. (2003) Medieval cell doctrine and ventricular theory: The model of brain function from the early 5th century (Nemesius, Poseidonius, St. Augustine) to the 17th (Willis) and 18th Centuries (Morgagni) Nathan Kline Psychiatric Institute, March (NYC).