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History of the University of Padova


The University of Padova was established in 1222 after a group of students and teachers decided to come here from Bologna. They set up a free body of scholars that was divided by place of origin into nationes, in which students approved statutes, elected the rettore (rector, or chancellor) and chose their teachers, who were paid with money the students collected. Defending freedom of thought in study and teaching became a distinctive feature which today lives on in the University motto: Universa Universis Patavina Libertas.

The introduction of empirical and experimental methods alongside the teaching of theory marked the dawn of a golden age. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Padova became a workshop of ideas and the home of figures that changed the cultural and scientific history of humanity. These figures included Andrea Vesalio, who founded modern anatomy, as well as Copernicus, and Galileo, who observed the skies here. Padova also vaunts the world's first University botanical garden and permanent anatomy theatre, which was built by Girolamo Fabrici d'Acquapendente. William Harvey, who became famous for describing how blood circulates, studied in Padova, and in 1678 Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia was the first woman in the world to be awarded a degree.

After the fall of the Serenissima Republic of Venezia, Padova was first ruled by the French and then by the Austrians, passing through Italy's tumultuous Risorgimento, which shook also the University.

Between the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the University expanded to include the faculties of Engineering, Pharmacy, and Political Sciences alongside its traditional faculties of Law, Medical School, Arts and Philosophy, and Sciences. The advent of Fascism curtailed the University's values of free thought and cultural independence. Its professors swore allegiance to the regime, after which the approval of Italy's racial laws and the expulsion of Jewish professors opened one of the darkest periods in the University's history. Rector Concetto Marchesi awoke the University from its slumber and at the height of the Nazi occupation made a courageous appeal to the students to fight for the freedom of Italy. For its sacrifices in the name of the Liberation, the University of Padova was awarded a gold medal for military valour, the only university to receive one. During the post-war period, the University opened faculties of Education, Agriculture Sciences, and Psychology, and, in the 1990s, faculties of Veterinary Medicine, and Economics and Business Administration.

In the 20th century, the University of Padova produced great literati such as Diego Valeri and Concetto Marchesi; engineers such as Giuseppe Colombo, the "master of celestial mechanics"; mathematicians such as Tullio Levi Civita; jurists such as Alfredo Rocco and Livio Paladin; philosophers such as Luigi Stefanini and Enrico Opocher; and doctors such as Vincenzo Gallucci, who carried out the first heart transplant in Italy.

This new millennium opened with some important discoveries, in particular in medicine, biomedicine, engineering and aerospace technology.



Cultural Heritage