Marcello Malpighi, Italian medical pioneer, c 1870.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694) undertook pioneering work in embryology, plant anatomy, histology and comparative anatomy and discovered the capillaries. In 1660 Malpighi proved through experiments on dogs that the lungs are made up of membranous vesicles filled with air. Later research with frogs showed that blood was contained within tubules, thereby identifying the capillaries. In 1675 he published the first part of his 'Anatome plantarum', the second part followed in 1679. This work is considered a clasic text of plant anatomy.