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Marchi, Vittorio


(b. Novellara, Reggio nell’ Emilia, Italy, 30 May 1851; d. Iesi, Ancona, Italy, 12 May 1908)


Marchi studied at the University of Modena, from which he received a degree in chemistry and pharmacy in 1873. He took a further degree in medicine and surgery in 1882; by then he had already conducted significant research, particularly in demonstrating Golgi tendon organs, including those of the motor muscles of the eye. Soon after his second graduation Marchi became a lecturer in anatomy at the university; he simultaneously served as an anatomist and pathologist at the Reggio nell’Emilia lunatic asylum.

In 1883 a government grant allowed Marchi to continue his studies in Golgi’s own general pathology laboratory at the University of Pavia. Here he investigated the fine structure of the corpus striatum and optic thalamus by means of Golgi’s “black reaction.” By this method, never fragments are subjected to three processes—being treated with potassium bichromate, osmium chloride and potassium bichromate, and finally silver nitrate—whereby a black precipitate that demonstrates the nerve elements is formed. Marchi refined Golgi’s method, omitting a step. By subjecting never fragments to only the potassium bichromate and osmium chloride and potassium bichromate, he was able to demonstrate recently degenerated nerve fibers. The destruction of a cell or the interruption of a never fiber is followed by the degeneration of the part of the fiber distal to the lesion; one of the concomitant results of such degeneration is the conversion of myelin to droplets of fat, and it is these fat globules (“Marchi’s globules”) that are stained black by osmium bichlorate in Marchi’s method. (Normal fiber remains unstained.)

Marchi described this staining technique in a series of reports that appeared in 1885. These included notes on lesions of the annular protuberance, on the double crossing of the pyramidal fasciculi, and particularly the preliminary note on the descending degeneration secondary to cortical lesions. In the last of these Marchi fully expounded the significance of his method.

More important than these papers, however, was Marchi’s experimental work on the descending degeneration that results from entire or partial extirpation of the cerebellum. From 1885 Marchi was in Florence, where he conducted researches at the physiology laboratory of the Istituto di Studi Superiori Pratici e di Perfezionamento, then under the direction of Luciani. His work served to clarify the structure of the cerebellar pedunculi; this in turn led to the recognition of the efferent fibers that run from the cerebellum to the spinal cord. The tractus tectospinalis is known as “Marchi’s tract.”

Marchi’s scientific contributions were not rewarded with the university chair that he sought. He gave up research and in 1888 began to practice medicine at San Benedetto del Tronto. From 1890 until his death he was head physician of the hospital of lesi.


I. Original Works. Among Marchi’s works published in journals are “Sulla terminazione della fibra muscolare nella fibra tendinea,” in Lo Spallanzani, 9 (1880), 194–197; “Sulle terminazioni periferiche dei nervi,” in Rivista sperimentale di freniatria e di medicina legale, 8 (1882), 477– 489, esp. 485–486; “Sugli organi terminali nervois nie tendini dei muscoli motori dell’occhio,” in Atti della Reale Accademia delle scienze di Torino,16 (1880–1881), 206–207; “Sugli organi terminali nervosi (corpi di Golgi) nei tendini dei muscoli motori del bulbo oculare,” in Archivio per le scienze mediche, 5 (1882), 273–282; and “Ueber di Terminalorgane der Nerven (Golgi’s Nervenkörperchen) in den Sehnen der Augenmuskeln,” in Albrecht v. Graefes Archiv für Ophthalmologie, 28 , pt. 1 (1882), 203–213.

See also “Un caso di sarcoma cerebrale in un alienato,” in Rivista sperimentale di freniatria, 9 (1883), 114–117; “Sulla fina anatomia dei corpi striati,” ibid., 331–334; “Sull’istologia patologica della paralsi progressiva,” ibid., 220–221; “Sulla struttura dei talami ottici,” ibid., 10 (1884), 329–332; “sopra un caso di doppio incrociamento dei fasci piramidali”, in Archivio italiano per le malattie nervose, 22 (1885), 255–266; “Contributo allo studio delle lesioni della protuberanza anulare,” in Rivista sperimentale di freniatria, 11 (1885) 254–278, written with Giovanni Algeri; “Sulle degenerazioni discendenti consecutive a lesioni della corteccia cerebrale,” ibid., 492–494, written with Algeri; “Sulle degenerazioni discendenti consecutive a lesioni sperimentali in diverse zone della corteccia cerebrale,” ibid., 12 (1886), 208–252, written with Algeri; “Sulle degenerazioni consecutive all’estirpazione totale e parziale del cervelletto,” ibid., 50–56; “Sulla fine struttura dei corpi striati e dei talami ottici”, ibid., 285–306; “Sulle degenerazioni consecutive a estirpazione totale e parziale del cervelletto,” ibid., 224, and 13 (1887), 446–452; “Sul decorso dei cordoni posteriori nel midollo spinale,” ibid., 13 (1887), 206–207; “Ricerche anatomo spinale,” ibid., beacteriologiche sul tifo pellagroso,” ibid., 14 (1888), 341–348; and “Sull’origine e decorso dei peduncoli cerebellari e sui loro rapporti cogli alteri centri nervosi,” ibid., 17 (1891), 357–368.

A separate publication is Sull’origine e decorso dei peduncoli cerebellari e sui loro rapporti cogli altri centri nervosi (Florence, 1891).

II. Secondary Literature. Works about Marchi include [Arturo Donaggio], Onoranze nella R. Università di Modena a Vittorio Marchi nel 25° anniversario della sua morte (Reggio nell’Emilia, 1933); Battista Grassi, I progressi della biologia e delle sue applicazioni pratiche conseguiti in Italia nell’ultimo cinquantennio (Rome, 1911), 170; Luigi Luciani, “Vittorio Marchi,” in Archives italiennes debiologie,49 (1908), 149–152; Manfredo Manfredi, “Vittorio Marchi e il suo ‘metodo,’” in Luigi Barchi, ed., Medici e naturalisti Reggiani (Reggio nell’Emilia, 1935), 159–169; P. Petrazzani, “Prof. Vittorio Marchi,” in Rivista sperimentale di freniatria, 34 (1908), 319–320; and Antonio A. Rizzoli,”An Unusual Case of Meningioma With the Involvement of Russell’s Hook Bundle as Described by Vittorio Marchi (1851–1908),” in Medical History, 17 (1973), 95–97.

Luigi Belloni

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