Francesco Rizzoli, the son of Bolognese parents, was born in 1809 in Milan. When his mother and father died, he was entrusted to a paternal uncle living in Bologna. There he graduated in Surgery in 1829 and in Medicine in 1831. He was appointed to the Ospedale del Ricovero and in 1836 became assistant to the chair of theoretical surgery and obstetrics. At little more than thirty years old, in 1840, he became professor. He taught obstetrics until 1849 when he was given the chair of Clinical Surgery, which he held until 1865, when due to a disagreement between him and the ministry, he was made to give it up.
Deprived of his teaching post, Rizzoli worked at Ospedale Maggiore as consultant surgeon and in his private practice until 1868, when he was given back his chair. For many years he was the chairman of the Society of Medicine and Surgery of Bologna, and in 1876 he was appointed Professor of Clinical Surgery and Operative Medicine of Pavia. An ardent patriot, he lent his skills to the war of independence and was also appointed Senator of the Kingdom.
Professionally, this illustrious doctor was respected, but not only locally. In fact, in 1862 he was called by the government, together with Luigi Porta, to visit the general, Giuseppe Garibaldi, to tend to a wound he received in Aspromonte.
His fame as a doctor is also testified by awards from the most important academies and medical societies of Europe and America. He wrote several scientific works, some of which were collected by Rizzoli himself in two volumes and printed in 1869. These were also translated into French, which appeared in two editions in 1872 and 1875.
In 1879 Professor Rizzoli bought the ex-monastery of San Michele in Bosco from the state for 55,000 Lire to set up an exemplary provincial orthopaedic hospital. He wanted to head the hospital himself. Its noble purpose was to be 'the progress of science, the good of mankind and national prestige.' This gesture shows not only his generosity but also his long-sightedness which would soon see 'surgery of the skeletal system' become separated from general surgery.
The professor was not able to see the opening of the hospital in 1896, because he died 24th May 1880. A few months before his death, he had left the amazing sum of 1,754,894 Lire to carry out his project.