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We see a strong, independent, self-willed countenance; what his features lack in refinement they make up in force; not an artistic or poetic face, but the face of the man of action with scholarly training. His Great Book. It is more than a landmark in the progress of science—it created an epoch. It is not only interesting historically, but on account of the highly artistic plates with which it is illustrated it is interesting to examine by one not an anatomist.

For executing the plates Vesalius secured the service of a fellow-countryman, John Stephen de Calcar, who was one of the most gifted pupils of Titian. The drawings are of such high artistic quality that for a long time they were ascribed to Titian. The artist has attempted to soften the necessarily prosaic nature of anatomical illustrations by introducing an artistic background of landscape of varied features, with bridges, roads, streams, [Pg 31] [Pg 32] buildings, etc. The employment of a background even in portrait-painting was not uncommon in the same century, as in Leonardo da Vinci's well-known Mona Lisa, with its suggestive perspective of water, rocks, etc.

Photographed and reduced from the facsimile edition of The plates in the original are of folio size, and represent a colossal figure in the foreground, with a background showing between the limbs and at the sides of the figure. There is considerable variety as regards the background, no two plates being alike. Also, in delineating the skeleton, the artist has given to it an artistic pose, as is shown in Fig.

No plates of equal merit had appeared before these; in fact, they are the earliest generally known drawings in anatomy, although woodcuts representing anatomical figures were published as early as by John Ketham. Ketham's figures showed only externals and preparations for opening the body, but rude woodcuts representing internal anatomy and the human skeleton had been published notably by Magnus Hundt, ; Phrysen, ; and Berengarius, and Leonardo da Vinci and other artists had also executed anatomical drawings before the time of Vesalius.

Previous to the publication of the complete work, Vesalius, in , had published six tables of anatomy, and, in , he brought out a new edition of the Fabrica , with slight additions, especially in reference to physiology, which will be adverted to in the chapter on Harvey. In the original edition of the illustrations are not collected in the form of plates, but are distributed through the text, the larger ones making full-page folio illustrations. In this edition also the chapters are introduced with an initial letter showing curious anatomical figures in miniature, some of which are shown in Fig.

The Fabrica of Vesalius was a piece of careful, honest work, the moral influence of which must not be overlooked. At any moment in the world's history, work marked by sincerity exercises a wholesome influence, but at this particular stage of intellectual development such work was an innovation, and its significance for progress was wider and deeper than it might have been under different circumstances.

Biology Before Darwin: Crash Course History of Science #19

Opposition to Vesalius. Not only did the ecclesiastics contend that he was disseminating false and harmful doctrine, but the medical men from whom he might have expected sympathy and support violently opposed his teachings. Many amusing arguments were brought forward to discredit Vesalius, and to uphold the authority of Galen.


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Vesalius showed that in the human body the lower jaw is a single bone—that it is not divided as it is in the dog and other lower mammals, and, as Galen had taught, also in the [Pg 35] human subjects. He showed that the sternum, or breast bone, has three parts instead of eight; he showed that the thigh bones are straight and not curved, as they are in the dog. Sylvius, his old teacher, was one of his bitterest opponents; he declared that the human body had undergone changes in structure since the time of Galen, and, with the object of defending the ancient anatomist, "he asserted that the straight thigh bones, which, as every one saw, were not curved in accordance with the teaching of Galen, were the result of the narrow trousers of his contemporaries, and that they must have been curved in their natural condition, when uninterfered with by art!

The theologians also found other points for contention. It was a widely accepted dogma that man should have one less rib on one side, because from the Scriptural account Eve was formed from one of Adam's ribs.

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This, of course, Vesalius did not find to be the case. It was also generally believed at this time that there was in the body an indestructible resurrection-bone which formed the nucleus of the resurrection-body.


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Vesalius said that he would leave the question of the existence of such a bone to be decided by the theologians, as it did not appear to him to be an anatomical question. The Court Physician. In this frame of mind he destroyed manuscripts upon which he had expended much labor. His disappointment in the reception of his work probably had much to do in deciding him to relinquish his professorship and accept the post of court physician to Charles V of the United Kingdoms of Spain and Belgium.

After the death of Charles, he remained with Philip II, who succeeded to the throne. Here he waxed rich and famous, but he was always under sus [Pg 36] picion by the clerical powers, who from time to time found means of discrediting him.

Organic evolution cross-examined; or, Some suggestions on the great secret of biology

The circumstances of his leaving Spain are not definitely known. One account has it that he made a post-mortem examination of a body which showed signs of life during the operation, and that he was required to undertake a pilgrimage to the Holy Land to clear his soul of sacrilege.

Whether or not this was the reason is uncertain, but after nineteen years at the Spanish Court he left, in , and journeyed to Jerusalem. On his return from Palestine he suffered shipwreck and died from the effects of exposure on Zanti, one of the Ionian Islands.


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  7. It is also said that while on this pilgrimage he had been offered the position of professor of anatomy as successor to Fallopius, who had died in , and that, had he lived, he would have come back honorably to his old post. Eustachius and Fallopius. Cuvier says in his Histoire des Sciences Naturelles that those three men were the founders of modern anatomy. Vesalius was a greater man than either of the other two, and his influence was more far-reaching.

    He reformed the entire field of anatomy, while the names of Eustachius and Fallopius are connected especially with a smaller part of the field. Eustachius described the Eustachian tube of the ear and gave especial attention to sense organs; Fallopius made special investigations upon the viscera, and described the Fallopian tube. Fallopius was a suave, polite man, who became professor of anatomy at Padua; he opposed Vesalius, but his attacks were couched in respectful terms.

    Eustachius, the professor of anatomy at Rome, was of a different type, a harsh, violent man, who assailed Vesalius with virulence. He corrected some mistakes of Vesalius, and prepared new plates on anatomy, which, however, were [Pg 37] not published until , and therefore did not exert the influence upon anatomical studies that those of Vesalius did.

    The Especial Service of Vesalius. Pioneers and path-breakers are under special limitations of being in a new territory, and make more errors than they would in following another's survey of the same territory; it takes much less creative force to correct the errors of a first survey than to make the original discoveries.

    Everything considered, Vesalius is deserving of the position assigned to him. He was great in a larger sense, and it was his researches in particular which re-established scientific method and made further progress possible. His errors were corrected, not by [Pg 38] an appeal to authority, but by the method which he founded.

    His great claim to renown is, not that his work outshone all other work that of Galen in particular in accuracy and brilliancy, but that he overthrew dependence on authority and re-established the scientific method of ascertaining truth.

    Organic evolution cross-examined; or, Some suggestions on the great secret of biology

    It was the method of Aristotle and Galen given anew to the world. The spirit of progress was now released from bondage, but we have still a long way to go under its guidance to reach the gateway of modern biology. After the splendid observations of Vesalius, revealing in a new light the construction of the human body, Harvey took the next general step by introducing experiment to determine the use or purpose of the structures that Vesalius had so clearly exposed. Thus the work of Harvey was complemental to that of Vesalius, and we may safely say that, taken together, the work of these two men laid the foundations of the modern method of investigating nature.

    The results they obtained, and the influence of their method, are of especial interest to us in the present connection, inasmuch as they stand at the beginning of biological science after the Renaissance. Although the observations of both were applied mainly to the human body, they served to open the entire field of structural studies and of experimental observations on living organisms. Many of the experiments of Harvey, notably those relating to the movements of the heart, were, of course, conducted upon the lower animals, as the frog, the dog, etc.

    His experiments on the living human body consisted mainly in applying ligatures to the arms and the legs. Nevertheless, the results of all his experiments related to the phenomena of the circulation in the human body, and were primarily for the use of medical men. In what sense the observations of the two men were complemental will be better understood when we remember that there are two aspects in which living organisms should always be considered in biological studies; first, the struc [Pg 40] ture, and, then, the use that the structures subserve.

    One view is essential to the other, and no investigation of animals and plants is complete in which the two ideas are not involved.

    Canadian Journal of Zoology - 68(4) - Abstract

    Just as a knowledge of the construction of a machine is necessary to understand its action, so the anatomical analysis of an organ must precede a knowledge of its office. The term "physiological anatomy of an organ," so commonly used in text-books on physiology, illustrates the point. We can not appreciate the work of such an organ as the liver without a knowledge of the arrangement of its working units.

    The work of the anatomist concerns the statics of the body, that of the physiologist the dynamics; properly combined, they give a complete picture of the living organism. It is to be remembered that the observations of Vesalius were not confined exclusively to structure; he made some experiments and some comments on the use of parts of the body, but his work was mainly structural, while that which distinguishes Harvey's research is inductions founded on experimental observation of the action of living tissues.

    The service of Vesalius and Harvey in opening the path to biological advance is very conspicuous, but they were not the only pioneers; their work was a part of the general revival of science in which Galileo, Descartes, and others had their part. While the birth of the experimental method was not due to the exertions of Harvey alone, nevertheless it should stand to his credit that he established that method in biological lines.

    Aristotle and Galen both had employed experiments in their researches, and Harvey's step was in the nature of a revival of the method of the old Greeks. Harvey's Education. He was born at Folkestone, on the south coast of England, in , the son of a prosperous yeoman. The Harvey family was well esteemed, and the [Pg 41] father of William was at one time the mayor of Folkestone. Young Harvey, after five years in the King's school at Canterbury, went to Cambridge, and in , at the age of sixteen, entered Caius College.

    He had already shown a fondness for observations upon the organization of animals, but it is unlikely that he was able to cultivate this at the university. There his studies consisted mainly of Latin and Greek, with some training in debate and elementary instruction in the science of physics. At Padua. He selected the great university of Padua as his place of sojourn, being attracted thither by the fame of some of its medical teachers. He was particularly fortunate in receiving his instruction in anatomy and physiology from Fabricius, one of the most learned and highly honored teachers in Italy.

    The fame of this master of medicine, who, from his birthplace, is usually given the full name of Fabricius ab Aquapendente , had spread to the intellectual centers of the world, where his work as anatomist and surgeon was especially recognized.