At Italy On This Day you will read about events and festivals, about important moments in history, and about the people who have made Italy the country it is today, and where they came from. Italy is a country rich in art and music, fashion and design, food and wine, sporting achievement and political diversity. Italy On This Day provides fascinating insights to help you enjoy it all the more.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Antonio Maria Valsava – anatomist

Work by brilliant professor benefits astronauts today


A line engraving of Antonio Maria Valsava by Romuald Ceracchi
A line engraving of Antonio Maria Valsava
by Romuald Ceracchi (CC BY 4.0)
Antonio Maria Valsava, a much respected anatomist, died on this day in 1723 in Bologna.

Valsava’s research focused on the anatomy of the ear and his discoveries were so important that a piece of equipment used by astronauts today is named after him.

The Valsava device in spacesuits allows astronauts to equalise the pressure in their ears by performing the Valsava manoeuvre inside the suit without using their hands to block their nose. It has also been used for other purposes, such as to remove moisture from the face.

Valsava was born in Imola in 1666. He received an education in humanities, mathematics and natural sciences before going on to study medicine and philosophy at Bologna University. He later became Professor of Anatomy at Bologna University.

His main interest was the middle and inner ear and it was Valsava who coined the term Eustachian tube for a part within the ear. It was named after the 16th century anatomist Bartolomeo Eustachi who had described the tube in his written work.

The Valsava manoeuvre, the forcible exhalation against a closed airway, often practised by people to equalise pressure between the ears when on an aeroplane, is still used by doctors today to help them with diagnosis in certain situations.

Valsava’s most substantial contribution to the field of medicine was his detailed, illustrated work about the anatomy, physiology and pathology of the ear, published in 1704.

Valsava died after a stroke in 1723 and was buried in the church of San Giovanni in Monte in Bologna.

Travel tip:

Imola, where Antonio Valsava was born, is a town in the province of Bologna in Emilia Romagna. It dates back to Roman times and there are many fascinating historic buildings to see in the centre. The town is also home to the Autodromo Internazionale Enzo e Dino Ferrari, a famous automobile racing circuit.

Find hotels in Imola with Hotels.com or venere.com


Bologna's historic university, founded in 1088, is the oldest in the world
Bologna's historic university, founded in 1088, is the
oldest in the world
Travel tip:

Bologna University was founded in 1088 and is the oldest in the world. There is a portrait of Valsava in the university’s oldest surviving building, the Archiginnasio, which is now a library. It is open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 7 pm, and on Saturdays from 9 am to 2 pm and is just a short walk from Piazza Maggiore and the Basilica di San Petronio in the centre of the city.

Find hotels in Bologna with Hotels.com or venere.com

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