I read that the Fallopian tubes were described by the Italian anatomist Gabrielle Fallopio, somewhere in the 16th century.

The Wikipedia describes that the structure reminded the musical instrument, and hence the name “tubes”.

However, the tuba is an instrument that came from the Ophicleide, and that one came from the old “serpent” instrument, which is from the late 1590’s. So it strikes me that at the 16th century, there was no musical instrument that could inspire the Italian anatomist, and the tuba would still take several centuries to be invented.

Can we determine this relationship? What was the music instrument of the 16th century that inspired Gabrielle Fallopio to name the female reproductive tract structure that now carries his name?

  • 2
    Although I like your question, it's not on topic here and would probably get better answers from the History exchange so I'm going to migrate it. Dec 5, 2018 at 3:00

2 Answers 2


The instrument referred to as 'tuba' in this context was simply the trumpet, rather than the modern instrument named tuba ('tuba' being the Latin word for 'trumpet').

In his book Obseruationes anatomicae. Ad Petrum Mannam medicum Cremonensem, Gabrielle Fallopio wrote:

Quare cum humus classici organi demptis capreolis, vel etiam iisdem additis meatus seminaries a principio usque ad extremum speciem gerat…ideo a me uteri tuba vocatus est.


Since the parts of the female’s seminal tube do resemble the shape of this classical music instrument, I have named it 'tuba uteri'.


The first mention of the structure is attributed to Herophilos of Chalkedon, a Greek doctor who taught in Alexandria around 300 BC. Further descriptions followed, but it was Gabriele Falloppio (1523-1562) who extended the anatomical knowledge of the structure to such an extent that it still bears his name in many countries (including the Latin tuba Fallopii, English Fallopian tube). In Spanish it is Trompa uterina.

But older names for the structure included the egg duct, mother's trumpet, cornu (uteri), cornu matricis, humerus, keraía, latera, ligamentum cornuale, oviductus, ovarialtube, vas seminale, vas spermaticum, vena tenuissima and via medulla.

As can be seen from some of these that Fallopio's contribution to the knowledge about that structure was significant, but the naming was certainly done with 'prior art' in mind.

The cornu was an ancient musical instrument that had different shapes over time:

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And older trumpets also had not always the complicated look one sees today. The variations were quite manifold across the world and times, but the ancient Roman tuba is drawn on Wikipedia like this:

enter image description here enter image description here

So while Fallppio is apparently on record with naming it explicitly after a musical instrument, lets keep in mind what that instrument really is:

Anything that is hollow and cylindrical in shape.?

That would be the definition of tube in English synonmous with pipe. The same in German were English tube becomes Rohr or Röhre. Medical terms are often somewhat more profane in Germany so the Falloppian tubes becomes Eileiter (from Oviductus) but in the ears the Eustachii tubes are the Eustach'sche Röhren.

More on the history and history of the names in

Robert Herrlinger & Edith Feiner: "Why Did Vesalius Not Discover The Fallopian Tubes?", Med Hist. 1964 Oct; 8(4): 335–341. PMCID: PMC1033409 PMID: 14230138. (PDF) (Curiously arguing that Vesalius in fact did describe them pretty detailed and accurately. Only to be hampered by Galenic thought and doctrine.)

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