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May 5, 2021
18th Century Antonio Scarpa

Antonio Scarpa (1747-1832)

Tabulae neurologicae, ad illustrandam historiam anatomicam cardiacorum nervorum...Ticini apud B. Comini, 1794.

Antonio Scarpa
Portrait of Antonio Scarpa
Portrait of Antonio Scarpa

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 Scarpa was an Italian surgeon-anatomist and a gifted artist. He was a pupil of Morgagni and became professor of anatomy and clinical surgery at the University of Modena at the age of twenty. In 1783, he was appointed professor of anatomy at the University of Pavia.

Scarpa illustrated his own works including "Tabluae Neurlogicae" which is his masterpiece.  This historical atlas is regarded as one of the most magnificent medical books with the best copper engravings ever published.  Faustino Anderloni, his assistant, created these engravings after Scarpa's drawings.

Scarpa made significant contributions to cardiovascular anatomy and provided the first accurate delineation of the nerves of the heart. He was the first to demonstrate that these nerves were connected directly to the myocardial fibers. Two of the seven plates in his atlas are about cardiac innervation.

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In addition to cardiac innervation, he did extensive researches on neurology and described the anatomy of the inner ear and published monographs on the structure of the inner ear (1772), on the hearing and olfactory organs (1789), and on ophthalmology (1801).

Scarpa wrote extensively about arterial aneurysms and their treatment including vascular ligation. He published his famous work on arterial aneurysms entitled, "Sull aneurysma riflessioni ed ossevazioni anatomico-chirurgiche," in 1804. For Scarpa, aneurysms were caused by a pathologic degenerative process involving the arterial wall rather than a simple luminar dilatation. He recognized arteriosclerosis as an important etiology of aneurysms in addition to syphilis.


Castiglioni A. Italian medicine. New York, Paul B Hoeber, 1932

Mann RJ. Scarpa, Hodgson, and Hope, artists of the heart and great vessels. Mayo Clinc Proc1947;49:889-892

Monti A. Antonio Scarpa. In scientific history and his role in the fortunes of the University of Pavia. New York,  Vigo Press,1957

Franceschini P. Antonio Scarpa. In dictionary of scientific biorgraphy. New York, Charles Scribner's Sons,1975, Vol.12:136-139

Fye WB. Profiles in cardiology: Antonio Scarpa. Clin Cardiol 1997;20:411-412



John Hunter