He was born in Bologna and graduated as a doctor in Rome in 1882. In 1883, he became extraordinary professor of pathology and in 1906, full-time professor at the University of Rome. In 1917, he became professor of medicine, a post he occupied until 1921. He was interested particularly in the pathology of the brain and discovered Marchiafava-Bignami disease but it was research on malaria which made him famous. He theorised, in 1896, that the mosquito can be the vector of the disease. To show this, he captured mosquitos in areas with high incidence of malaria and had them bite healhy people. But, like Ronald Ross (1857-1932), Bignami failed to bring certain proof. In the following year Ronald Ross demonstrated the connection but only in birds. In 1898, Bignami, Giovanni Battista Grassi, Antonio Dionisi and Giuseppe Bastianelli's experiments succeeded. Bignami did not hesitate to be bitten himself and to contract the disease. The three scientists presented on November 28, 1898 the results of their observations to the Accademia dei Lincei. Among his publications are Ricerche sull’anatomia patologica delle perniciose (1890), Sulle febbre malariche estivo-automnali(1892), La malaria e le zanzare (1899), La infezione malarica (1902) and with Grassi Ciclo evolutivo della semilune nell' Anopheles claviger (1899)
He died in Rome in 1929.
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- Conci, C. & Poggi, R. 1996 Iconography of Italian Entomologists, with essential biographical data. Mem. Soc. Ent. Ital. 75 159-382, 418 Fig.
- Roncalli, Amici R 2001 The history of Italian parasitology. Vet. Parasitol. 98(1-3):3-30.