He was born in Crevalcore, Italy, raised on the farm of his parents, and entered the University of Bologna at the age of 17. While he was studying philosophy, his parents died, and as the eldest son he had to take care of the family business. He returned to university after two years, and became a doctor of medicine in 1653.
Malpighi used the microscope for studies on skin, kidney, and for the first interspecies comparison of the liver. He greatly extended the science of embryology. Use of microscope enabled him to describe the development of the chick in its egg, and discovered that insects (particulary, the silk worm) do not use lungs to breathe, but small holes in their skin called tracheae. He was the first to see capillaries and thus he discovered the link between arteries and veins that had eluded William Harvey. A skin layer was named after him, the Malpighi layer, also other structures, like the Malpighi bodies in the kidneys.
Malpighi's important works:
- De viscerum structura exercitatio (Bologna, 1666)
- Howard Adelmann, Marcello Malpighi and the Evolution of Embryology, 5 vol., 1966.