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Vesalius, Andreas

anatomy book padua research

Lat ), Andries van Wesel ( Flemish ) [vuh zay liuhs] (1514–64) Flemish anatomist: the founder of modern anatomy.

A pharmacist’s son, Vesalius studied medicine at Louvain, Paris and Padua. He did well, and was made professor of anatomy and surgery at Padua when he was 24. His first lectures were novel; he carried out dissections himself, instead of leaving this to an assistant while reading from a text book as was usual; and he used drawings to help his students. During the next four years, he was busy with his research on anatomy based on human dissection. His results were published in De humani corporis fabrica libri septem (1543, The Seven Books on the Structure of the Human Body), which included descriptions and fine woodcuts, some by himself and the rest made under his direction. The book set a completely new level of clarity and accuracy in anatomy and made all earlier work outdated. Many structures are described and drawn in it for the first time (eg the thalamus) and the book also broke with tradition by its critical view of earlier work (eg Vesalius notes that he was unable to find a passage for blood between the ventricles of the heart, as had assumed). At 29, with his master-work published, Vesalius became a court physician, at first to Charles V and then to Philip II of Spain. His research largely ceased. He found that Spanish doctors were Galenists who were hostile and jealous, and he tried to recover his job in Padua. To leave Spain he needed Philip’s permission, which he got by proposing a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. He probably got his job on the way to Jerusalem, but died on the return journey, in Greece.

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