In 1528, Vesalius attended the University of Leuven taking arts, but he moved to Paris where he studied Galen’s works in the University of Paris. He developed an interest in anatomy here and was often found studying bones in the Cemetery of the Innocents. Vesalius was forced to move out of Paris, due to hostility between France and the Holy Roman Empire. He returned to Leuven and studied in the University of Leuven again, but graduated the next year. He left briefly after a dispute with his professor. He then went to the University of Padua in 1536 to receive his doctorate and received it in 1537.
On his graduation he was offered the chair of Surgery and Anatomy at Padua. He also guest lectured in Bologna and Pisa. Previously these topics were read from classic texts, mainly Galen, followed by an animal dissection by the barber-surgeon. No attempt was made to check Galen’s claims. Vesalius on the other hand, carried out dissection as a primary teaching tool, while students viewed his work around the table. He kept drawings of his work for his students in the form six large illustrated tables. When he found that some of the drawings were widely copied, he published these tables under the title Tabulae Anatomicae Sex.
In 1541, Vesalius uncovered the fact that Galen’s research was based on the bodies of animals, not humans. This was due to the fact that, in Ancient Rome, dissection was banned. Galen had mainly used the body of a species of ape, as he believed that this body was the closest to a human’s. Because of this, Vesalius corrected Galen’s Opera omnia and wrote down his own anatomical texts. Until Vesalius pointed this out, it had long gone unnoticed and was the foundation of anatomical teachings. Although Vesalius was right, people still believed Galen’s claims and they also believed that Vesalius was wrong.
Later Vesalius stirred up some more disagreement. This time, not only disproving Galen, but also Aristotle, all three had made hypotheses of the functions and structure of the heart, which were clearly wrong. For example, Vesalius had noted that the heart had four chambers; the liver four lobes and the fact that arteries came from the heart. Another example would be, when he disproved Galen’s assumption that the jaw bone was made up of two, when actually, it was made up of one.
Galen assumed that arteries carried blood to the more important organs, such as the brain from the left ventricle of the heart, and that veins carried blood to the lesser organs, such as the stomach from the right ventricle of the heart. In order for this theory to be true, there would need to be a hole to interconnect these ventricles and Galen said that he had found this hole. So for nearly 2000 years, people believed that there really was a hole, until Vesalius proved Galen wrong. Vesalius had said that there was no hole.
Because of Vesalius’ findings, modern medicine owes Vesalius for advancing human anatomy. By overturning people’s traditions of Galen’s ideas, Vesalius helped people for nearly 1000 years in the study of human anatomy.
My conclusion is that Vesalius is very important figure in the study of anatomy. So Vesalius would really be the founder of modern human anatomy.
By Aynan Muse
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