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Neurosurgery. 2011 Jun;68(6):1483-9; discussion 1490. doi: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e31820f33d2.

The history of the hypophysis: the pioneering studies of Edoardo Gemelli.

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Vita-Salute San Raffaele University, Milan, Italy.


Research into the embryological development of organs has been of relevant interest for contemporary medicine since the 19th century. In particular, some organs, such as the pituitary gland, or hypophysis, were deemed not to have a specific function. They were thus considered as rudimental organs, a mere residue of evolution. Edoardo Gemelli was an Italian doctor and friar, who was among the first to study this topic, under the supervision of Professor Camillo Golgi in Italy from 1903 to 1908. He gave a detailed description of the embryological development of the pituitary gland in mammals, also unveiling the functional role of the gland in water balance and growth. He addressed and tried to correctly embody the relevance of Darwin's theory of evolution, which was spreading following its publication in 1859. His findings, herein reported, are thus of both scientific and anthropological relevance for their contribution to the understanding of the morphofunctional nature of the hypophysis and of the theory of evolution, respectively.

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