Illustration of human viscera by Paulo Mascagni, from his Anatomia Universa (1823-31) – Source: Wellcome Library, London.
Paolo Mascagni (January 25, 1755 – October 19, 1815) was an Italian physician and anatomist. He is most well known for publishing the first complete description of the lymphatic system.
Mascagni was born in the comune of Pomarance (in the Province of Pisa) to Aurelio Mascagni and Elisabetta Burroni, both belonging to old gentry families of Chiusdino.
He studied philosophy and medicine at the University of Siena. Upon graduating in 1777, renowned anatomist Pietro Tabarrini took Mascagni as an assistant. Upon Tabarrini’s death in 1780, Mascagni was appointed as an anatomy lecturer at the University of Siena.
As a young man, Mascagni was interested in geological sciences, as evidenced by his several papers on the Lagoni (thermal springs) of Siena and Volterra. Upon graduation, he turned his interest to the human lymphatic system. His many discoveries in this field led to the composition and publication of Vasorum lymphaticorum corporis humani historia et iconographia in 1787.
For this reason, he spent seven months in prison after the French were expelled. Mascagni was freed from prison by a motu proprio of the King of Etruria, who on October 22, 1801 appointed Mascagni a professor of anatomy at the University of Pisa, with the additional charge of lecturing twice a week at the Hospital of Santa Maria Nuova in Florence.
In 1807, Mascagni was appointed professor of anatomy at the University of Florence. There, he wrote Treatise of Anatomy.