Published On: Tue, Dec 19th, 2017

History and interesting facts about the University of Padua

The University of Padua, founded in 1222, is one of the oldest European universities. To date, 65,000 students study at the university in 13 faculties. Find out more about its history and interesting facts.

Year of foundation is supposedly 1222

If the history of Cambridge is closely intertwined with Oxford, the University of Padua was founded in 1222 by teachers and students who left the University of Bologna because of a conflict with their superiors. From 1339 to 1813, the university was divided into two parts – Universitas Iuristarum, where they taught law and theology, and Universitas Artistarum, where they taught philosophy, astronomy, dialectics, grammar, medicine, and rhetoric.

University of Padua

During the 19th–20th centuries, there was a tendency towards decentralization and the establishment of laboratories and campuses outside the territory of Padua. In February 1848, there was an uprising of students against the rule of Austria, which led to the closure of the university until 1850. The most important moment of the university’s history was the adoption of a new charter in 1995, which gave the university more independence.

Interesting facts

The University of Padua is located in the palace of Del Bo, which means “a bull” in the Venetian dialect (formerly there were meat shops nearby). However, it moved here only at the end of the 15th century, and earlier there was the hotel named Under the Sign of the Bull was located in the building. On the doors of the hotel, there was a picture of a bull’s head.

Anatomical Theater in Europe university of padua italy

At the end of the 16th century, the University built the first Anatomical Theater in Europe. It was like the Colosseum. In the center, there was an operating table on which demonstrative autopsy of corpses was conducted. It was surrounded by the ranks of viewers, and, not only for teachers and medical students but also for urban onlookers. To get to the “performance,” it was necessary to make a certain payment. The hall was full of music and the guests were offered drinks. Since such procedures were officially banned at that time, the university leadership carefully monitored the safety. The demonstration room was directly under the room of the vice-principal, and if there was a possibility that the Inquisition might come, he immediately descended to the theater to let everyone know.

In 1545, a botanical garden was established at the University of Padua. It is the second oldest after Pisa but claims to be the oldest of the continuously operating ones as its rival repeatedly moved from place to place.

Famous graduates

Such figures of the Renaissance and early New Age as Pico della Mirandola, Nikolai Kazansky, Copernicus, one of the founders of the Italian literary language Pietro Bembo, Torquato Tasso, Galileo, Vesalius, and Belarusian printer Francysk Skaryna studied or worked at the University of Padua. In 1678, a woman received a Ph.D. for the first time – Elena Cornaro Piscopia.

The coming to power of the Venetian Republic, which lasts more than three centuries (until the end of the eighteenth century), was marked by the onset of a significant cultural prestige that attracted to Padua such eminent personalities as Galileo Galilei and others whose names are carved in the history of medicine and science.

Andreas Vesalius, after graduating from the University of Padua, became one of the most distinguished professors of surgery in history. Vesalius is the author of De Humani Corporis Fabrica, which was used as an indispensable teaching aid for medical students for the next four centuries.

Gabriele Falloppio is the famous professor of botany, pharmacology, and surgery, one of the largest scientists in the history of anatomy.

Hieronymus Fabricius is an outstanding anatomist, surgeon, and physiologist, the initiator of the construction of the first stationary Anatomical Theater, opened in 1594, which can still be seen in the Palazzo del Bo, an ancient university building. Thanks to him, the school of famous physicians and anatomists was founded, among which were Giulio Cesare Casseri, Adriaan van den Spiegel, Ole Worm, Caspar Bartholin, and the most famous of all, William Harvey, the discoverer of blood circulation.

Girolamo Fracastoro who, in addition to teaching logic in Padua, is one of the founders of modern pathology. He was the first in his scientific studies to suggest and confirm that infectious diseases are caused by microbes – carriers of diseases that have the ability to reproduce in the body and infect other organisms through breathing or other forms of contact. His treatise De Contagione et Contagiosis Morbis of 1546 underlies modern pathology.

Antonio Vallisneri, a great doctor, scientist, naturalist, and biologist, who lived at the turn of the 17th and 18th centuries. He is known as one of the first researchers in medicine who proposed to abandon the Aristotelian theory in favor of an experimental approach based on scientific principles that Galileo Galilei supported.

Giovanni Battista Morgagni, a physician, anatomist, and pathologist of the eighteenth century, author of numerous morphological discoveries in human anatomy.

Current state of affairs


Today, 65,000 students study at the university in 13 faculties. Among them are the Faculty of Humanities and Philosophy, engineering, law, psychology, physics and mathematics, natural, medical and surgical, and others.

You can become a student of the University of Padua if you meet the conditions of admission. The University is open to foreigners – any student from another country can submit documents for admission in advance. Depending on the faculty you may need to pass certain exams or prepare an application essay. The college admission essay service can help you in that.

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