Manzolini, Anna Morandi (1716–1774)

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Manzolini, Anna Morandi (1716–1774)

Italian anatomist . Name variations: Anne Manzolini; Anna Morandi; Anna Mahzolini or Mohzolini. Born Anna Morandi in Bologna, Italy, in 1716; died in Bologna in 1774; married Giovanni Manzolini (a professor of anatomy), in 1736; children: six.

Anna Morandi was born in Bologna, Italy, in 1716. When she was 20 years old, she married anatomist Giovanni Manzolini, a professor at the University of Bologna. The university was one of the leading European centers for the study of anatomy, and her husband was an expert in making anatomically correct wax models from corpses, for use in the instruction of anatomy. (The various Christian churches had outlawed the dissection of human bodies, even for scientific purposes, during the Middle Ages, but some scientific study of the inside of the human body had begun with the growth of that intellectual curiosity that shortly would bring about the Enlightenment. Procuring corpses for dissection was difficult, however, and skillful anatomists were prized.) Her husband often worked at home, and Manzolini despised the presence of the dead bodies he brought into their small house. Nonetheless, when it became apparent that he was slowly dying of tuberculosis, she herself started creating wax models from corpses to support the family. She began studying anatomy at the same time, in order to perfect her modeling work, and also gave birth to six children over the course of five years.

When her husband became too ill to fulfill his lecturing duties at the university, Manzolini received permission from the school to step into his place. Because of her comprehensive knowledge of anatomy and her effective teaching style, she was appointed lecturer of anatomy in her own name upon her husband's death in 1760. The university also bestowed the title of modellatrice upon her. In 1766, she was elected to a professorship. Word of her work spread across the continent, and at the invitation of Empress Catherine II the Great she subsequently lectured in Russia, where she was made a member of the Russian Royal Scientific Society, and in Britain, where she was made a member of the Royal Society. She remained a professor at the University of Bologna until her death at age 58 in 1774.

Although her career started from necessity, Anna Manzolini proved to be a skilled dissector, modeler, and teacher. Her precise observation and reproduction of the human body resulted in her discovery of the correct termination of the oblique muscle of the eye. Considered a vast improvement over those created by Allessandra Giliani some 400 years before, her models were on display throughout Europe and were purchased by such influential people as Joseph II, emperor of Austria. After her death, her bust was placed in the Pantheon in Rome and in the museum of the University of Bologna.

Kari Bethel , freelance writer, Columbia, Missouri