Vesalius
Overview
 
Andreas Vesalius was a Flemish anatomist
Anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

, physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

, and author of one of the most influential books on human anatomy
Human anatomy
Human anatomy is primarily the scientific study of the morphology of the human body. Anatomy is subdivided into gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy is the study of anatomical structures that can be seen by the naked eye...

, De humani corporis fabrica
De humani corporis fabrica
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem is a textbook of human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius in 1543....

(On the Structure of the Human Body). Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy. Vesalius is the Latinized form of Andries van Wesel. He is sometimes also referred to as Andreas Vesal, André Vesalio and Andre Vesale.
Vesalius was born to Andries van Wesele and Isabel Crabbe on 31 December 1514, in Brussels, which was then part of the Habsburg Netherlands
Habsburg Netherlands
The Habsburg Netherlands was a geo-political entity covering the whole of the Low Countries from 1482 to 1556/1581 and solely the Southern Netherlands from 1581 to 1794...

.
Unanswered Questions
Encyclopedia
Andreas Vesalius was a Flemish anatomist
Anatomy
Anatomy is a branch of biology and medicine that is the consideration of the structure of living things. It is a general term that includes human anatomy, animal anatomy , and plant anatomy...

, physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

, and author of one of the most influential books on human anatomy
Human anatomy
Human anatomy is primarily the scientific study of the morphology of the human body. Anatomy is subdivided into gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy is the study of anatomical structures that can be seen by the naked eye...

, De humani corporis fabrica
De humani corporis fabrica
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem is a textbook of human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius in 1543....

(On the Structure of the Human Body). Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy. Vesalius is the Latinized form of Andries van Wesel. He is sometimes also referred to as Andreas Vesal, André Vesalio and Andre Vesale.

Early life and education

Vesalius was born to Andries van Wesele and Isabel Crabbe on 31 December 1514, in Brussels, which was then part of the Habsburg Netherlands
Habsburg Netherlands
The Habsburg Netherlands was a geo-political entity covering the whole of the Low Countries from 1482 to 1556/1581 and solely the Southern Netherlands from 1581 to 1794...

. His great grandfather, Jan van Wesel, probably born in Wesel
Wesel
Wesel is a city in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. It is the capital of the Wesel district.-Division of the town:Suburbs of Wesel include Lackhausen, Obrighoven, Ginderich, Feldmark,Fusternberg, Büderich, Flüren and Blumenkamp.-History:...

, received his medical degree from the University of Pavia
University of Pavia
The University of Pavia is a university located in Pavia, Lombardy, Italy. It was founded in 1361 and is organized in 9 Faculties.-History:...

 and taught medicine in 1528 at the then newly founded University of Leuven
Catholic University of Leuven
The Catholic University of Leuven, or of Louvain, was the largest, oldest and most prominent university in Belgium. The university was founded in 1425 as the University of Leuven by John IV, Duke of Brabant and approved by a Papal bull by Pope Martin V.During France's occupation of Belgium in the...

. His grandfather, Everard van Wesel, was the Royal Physician of Emperor Maximilian
Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor
Maximilian I , the son of Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor and Eleanor of Portugal, was King of the Romans from 1486 and Holy Roman Emperor from 1493 until his death, though he was never in fact crowned by the Pope, the journey to Rome always being too risky...

, while his father, Anders van Wesel, went on to serve as apothecary
Apothecary
Apothecary is a historical name for a medical professional who formulates and dispenses materia medica to physicians, surgeons and patients — a role now served by a pharmacist and some caregivers....

 to Maximillian, and later a valet de chambre
Valet de chambre
Valet de chambre , or varlet de chambre, was a court appointment introduced in the late Middle Ages, common from the 14th century onwards. Royal Households had many persons appointed at any time...

 to his successor Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

. Anders encouraged his son to continue in the family tradition, and enrolled him in the Brethren of the Common Life
Brethren of the Common Life
The Brethren of the Common Life was a Roman Catholic pietist religious community founded in the 14th century by Gerard Groote, formerly a successful and worldly educator who had had a religious experience and preached a life of simple devotion to Jesus Christ...

 in Brussels to learn Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 according to standards of the era.

In 1528 Vesalius entered the University of Leuven (Pedagogium Castrense) taking arts, but when his father was appointed as the Valet de Chambre in 1532, he decided to pursue a career in medicine at the University of Paris
University of Paris
The University of Paris was a university located in Paris, France and one of the earliest to be established in Europe. It was founded in the mid 12th century, and officially recognized as a university probably between 1160 and 1250...

, where he moved in 1533. Here he studied the theories of Galen
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

 under the auspices of Jacques Dubois
Jacques Dubois
Jacques Dubois , also known as Jacobus Sylvius in Latin, was a French anatomist in Paris.-Early grammar of French:Dubois was the author of the first grammar of the French language to be published in France...

 (Jacobus Sylvius) and Jean Fernel
Jean Fernel
Jean François Fernel was a French physician who introduced the term "physiology" to describe the study of the body's function. He was the first person to describe the spinal canal...

. It was during this time that he developed his interest in anatomy, and was often found examining bones at the Cemetery of the Innocents.

Vesalius was forced to leave Paris in 1536 due to the opening of hostilities between the Holy Roman Empire and France, and returned to Leuven
Leuven
Leuven is the capital of the province of Flemish Brabant in the Flemish Region, Belgium...

. Here he completed his studies under Johann Winter von Andernach
Johann Winter von Andernach
Johann Winter von Andernach, also Johannes Winter von/aus Andernach, born Johann Winter, Latin Doctor Ioannes Guinterius Andernacus was a physician, university professor, humanist, translator of ancient, mostly medical works, and writer own medical, philological and humanities works.- Name...

 and graduated the next year. His thesis, Paraphrasis in nonum librum Rhazae medici arabis clariss. ad regem Almansorum de affectuum singularum corporis partium curatione, was a commentary on the ninth book of Rhazes. He remained at Leuven only briefly before leaving after a dispute with his professor. After settling briefly in Venice
Venice
Venice is a city in northern Italy which is renowned for the beauty of its setting, its architecture and its artworks. It is the capital of the Veneto region...

 in 1536, he moved to the University of Padua
University of Padua
The University of Padua is a premier Italian university located in the city of Padua, Italy. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a school of law and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second...

 (Universitas artistarum) to study for his doctorate, which he received in 1537.

Medical career and mature works

On graduation he was immediately offered the chair of Surgery and Anatomy (explicator chirurgiae) at Padua. He also guest lectured at Bologna
University of Bologna
The Alma Mater Studiorum - University of Bologna is the oldest continually operating university in the world, the word 'universitas' being first used by this institution at its foundation. The true date of its founding is uncertain, but believed by most accounts to have been 1088...

 and Pisa
University of Pisa
The University of Pisa , located in Pisa, Tuscany, is one of the oldest universities in Italy. It was formally founded on September 3, 1343 by an edict of Pope Clement VI, although there had been lectures on law in Pisa since the 11th century...

. Previously these topics had been taught primarily from reading classic texts, mainly Galen
Galen
Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

, followed by an animal dissection by a barber-surgeon whose work was directed by the lecturer. No attempt was made to actually check Galen's claims; these were considered unassailable. Vesalius, on the other hand, carried out dissection as the primary teaching tool, handling the actual work himself while his students clustered around the table. Hands-on direct observation was considered the only reliable resource, a huge break with medieval practice.

He kept meticulous drawings of his work for his students in the form of six large illustrated anatomical tables. When he found that some of these were being widely copied, he published them all in 1538 under the title Tabulae Anatomicae Sex. He followed this in 1539 with an updated version of Galen's anatomical handbook, Institutiones Anatomicae. When this reached Paris one of his former professors published an attack on this version.

In 1538 he also published a letter on venesection, or bloodletting
Bloodletting
Bloodletting is the withdrawal of often little quantities of blood from a patient to cure or prevent illness and disease. Bloodletting was based on an ancient system of medicine in which blood and other bodily fluid were considered to be "humors" the proper balance of which maintained health...

. This was a popular treatment for almost any illness, but there was some debate about where to take the blood from. The classical Greek procedure, advocated by Galen, was to let blood from a site near the location of the illness. However, the Muslim and medieval practice was to draw a smaller amount blood from a distant location. Vesalius' pamphlet supported Galen's view, and supported his arguments through anatomical diagrams.

In 1539 a Paduan judge became interested in Vesalius' work, and made bodies of executed criminals available for dissection. He soon built up a wealth of detailed anatomical diagrams, the first accurate set to be produced. Many of these were produced by commissioned artists, and were therefore of much better quality than those produced previously.

In 1541, while in Bologna, Vesalius uncovered the fact that all of Galen's research had been based upon animal anatomy rather than the human; since dissection had been banned in ancient Rome, Galen had dissected Barbary Apes instead, and argued that they would be anatomically similar to humans. As a result, he published a correction of Galen's Opera omnia and began writing his own anatomical text. Until Vesalius pointed this out, it had gone unnoticed and had long been the basis of studying human anatomy. However, some people still chose to follow Galen and resented Vesalius for calling attention to such glaring mistakes.

Vesalius, undeterred, went on to stir up more controversy, this time disproving not just Galen but also Mondino de Liuzzi
Mondino de Liuzzi
Mondino de Luzzi, or de Liuzzi or de Lucci, , also known as Mundinus, was an Italian physician, anatomist, and professor of surgery who lived and worked in Bologna...

 and even Aristotle
Aristotle
Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and polymath, a student of Plato and teacher of Alexander the Great. His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology...

; all three had made assumptions about the functions and structure of the heart that were clearly wrong. For instance, Vesalius noted that the heart had four chambers, the liver two lobes, and that the blood vessels originated in the heart, not the liver.

Galen assumed arteries carried the purest blood to higher organs such as the brain and lungs from the left ventricle of the heart, while veins carried blood to the lesser organs such as the stomach from the right ventricle. In order that this theory could be correct some sort of holes were needed to interconnect the ventricles, and so in the spirit of Galen's time, he claimed to have found them, adjusting the facts to suit his theory. So paramount was the authority of Galen that for the next 1400 years, a succession of anatomists claimed to find these holes until finally Vesalius declared he could not find them. However, while Vesalius dared to admit he could not find these holes, he did not dream of disputing Galen on the distribution of blood, and so imagined it distilled through the unbroken partition between the ventricles.

Other famous examples of Vesalius disproving Galen in particular was his discovery that the lower jaw was only one bone, not two (which Galen had assumed from animal dissection) and his proof that blood did not pass through the interatrial septum
Interatrial septum
The interatrial septum is the wall of tissue that separates the right and left atria of the heart.-Development:The interatrial septum forms during the first and second months of fetal development. Formation of the septum occurs in several stages...

.

In 1543, Vesalius conducted a public dissection of the body of Jakob Karrer von Gebweiler, a notorious felon from the city of Basel
Basel
Basel or Basle In the national languages of Switzerland the city is also known as Bâle , Basilea and Basilea is Switzerland's third most populous city with about 166,000 inhabitants. Located where the Swiss, French and German borders meet, Basel also has suburbs in France and Germany...

, Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

. With the cooperation of the surgeon Franz Jeckelmann, he assembled the bones and finally donated the skeleton
Skeleton
The skeleton is the body part that forms the supporting structure of an organism. There are two different skeletal types: the exoskeleton, which is the stable outer shell of an organism, and the endoskeleton, which forms the support structure inside the body.In a figurative sense, skeleton can...

 to the University of Basel
University of Basel
The University of Basel is located in Basel, Switzerland, and is considered to be one of leading universities in the country...

. This preparation ("The Basel Skeleton") is Vesalius' only well-preserved skeletal preparation today, and is also the world's oldest anatomical preparation. It is still displayed at the Anatomical Museum of the University of Basel
University of Basel
The University of Basel is located in Basel, Switzerland, and is considered to be one of leading universities in the country...

.

Later that year Vesalius asked Johannes Oporinus
Johannes Oporinus
Johannes Oporinus was a humanist printer in Basel, the son of the painter Hans Herbst- Life :...

 to help publish the seven-volume De humani corporis fabrica
De humani corporis fabrica
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem is a textbook of human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius in 1543....

(On the fabric of the human body), a groundbreaking work of human anatomy
Human anatomy
Human anatomy is primarily the scientific study of the morphology of the human body. Anatomy is subdivided into gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy is the study of anatomical structures that can be seen by the naked eye...

 he dedicated to Charles V. Most believe it was illustrated by Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

's pupil Jan Stephen van Calcar
Jan Van Calcar
Jan Steven van Calcar was a Netherlandish-born Italian painter.-Life:Calcar was born in the Duchy of Cleves sometime between 1499 and 1510. Vasari refers to him several times, mainly with respect to his having been a pupil of Titian...

. A few weeks later he published an abridged edition for students, Andrea Vesalii suorum de humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome, and dedicated it to Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

, son of the Emperor.

Though Vesalius' work was not the first such work based on actual autopsy, nor even the first work of this era, the production values, highly detailed and intricate plates, and the fact that the artists who produced it were clearly present at the dissections themselves made it into an instant classic. Pirated editions were available almost immediately, a fact Vesalius acknowledged would happen in a printer's note. Vesalius was 30 years old when the first edition of Fabrica was published.

Imperial physician and death

Soon after publication, Vesalius was invited as Imperial physician to the court of Emperor Charles V
Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor
Charles V was ruler of the Holy Roman Empire from 1519 and, as Charles I, of the Spanish Empire from 1516 until his voluntary retirement and abdication in favor of his younger brother Ferdinand I and his son Philip II in 1556.As...

. He informed the Venetian Senate that he was leaving his post in Padua, which prompted Duke Cosimo I de' Medici
Cosimo I de' Medici, Grand Duke of Tuscany
Cosimo I de' Medici was Duke of Florence from 1537 to 1574, reigning as the first Grand Duke of Tuscany from 1569.-Biography:...

 to invite him to move to the expanding university in Pisa, which he turned down. Vesalius took up a position in the court, where he had to deal with the other physicians mocking him as being a barber.

Over the next eleven years Vesalius travelled with the court, treating injuries from battle or tournaments, performing pastes and postmortems, and writing private letters addressing specific medical questions. During these years he also wrote Radicis Chynae, a short text on the properties of a medical plant, whose use he defended, as well as defense for his anatomical findings. This elicited a new round of attacks on his work that called for him to be punished by the emperor. In 1551, Charles V commissioned an inquiry in Salamanca
Salamanca
Salamanca is a city in western Spain, in the community of Castile and León. Because it is known for its beautiful buildings and urban environment, the Old City was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1988. It is the most important university city in Spain and is known for its contributions to...

 to investigate the religious implications of his methods. Vesalius' work was cleared by the board, but the attacks continued. Four years later one of his main detractors published an article that claimed that the human body itself had changed since Galen had studied it.

After the abdication of Emperor Charles V he continued at court in great favour with his son Philip II, who rewarded him with a pension for life and by being made a count palatine. In 1555 he published a revised edition of De Corporis.

In 1564 Vesalius went on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. He sailed with the Venetian fleet under James Malatesta via Cyprus
Cyprus
Cyprus , officially the Republic of Cyprus , is a Eurasian island country, member of the European Union, in the Eastern Mediterranean, east of Greece, south of Turkey, west of Syria and north of Egypt. It is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea.The earliest known human activity on the...

. When he reached Jerusalem, he received a message from the Venetian senate requesting him again to accept the Paduan professorship, which had become vacant by the death of his friend and pupil Fallopius
Gabriele Falloppio
Gabriele Falloppio , often known by his Latin name Fallopius, was one of the most important anatomists and physicians of the sixteenth century....

.

After struggling for many days with the adverse winds in the Ionian Sea
Ionian Sea
The Ionian Sea , is an arm of the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Adriatic Sea. It is bounded by southern Italy including Calabria, Sicily and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and a large number of Greek islands, including Corfu, Zante, Kephalonia, Ithaka, and...

, he was wrecked on the island of Zakynthos
Zakynthos
Zakynthos , also Zante, the other form often used in English and in Italian , is a Greek island in the Ionian Sea. It is the third largest of the Ionian Islands. It is also a separate regional unit of the Ionian Islands region, and the only municipality of the regional unit. It covers an area of ...

.
Here he soon died in such debt that a benefactor kindly paid for his funeral. At the time of his death he was scarcely fifty years of age.

For many years it was assumed that Vesalius's pilgrimage was due to pressures of the Inquisition
Inquisition
The Inquisition, Inquisitio Haereticae Pravitatis , was the "fight against heretics" by several institutions within the justice-system of the Roman Catholic Church. It started in the 12th century, with the introduction of torture in the persecution of heresy...

. Today this is generally considered to be without foundation (see C.D. O'Malley Andreas Vesalius' Pilgrimage, Isis 45:2, 1954) and is dismissed by modern biographers. It appears the story was spread by Hubert Languet
Hubert Languet
Hubert Languet was a French diplomat and reformer. The leading idea of his diplomacy was that of religious and civil liberty for the protection and expansion of Protestantism...

, who served as de Saxe under Emperor Charles V and then under the Prince of Orange
Prince of Orange
Prince of Orange is a title of nobility, originally associated with the Principality of Orange, in what is now southern France. In French it is la Principauté d'Orange....

, who claimed in 1565 that Vesalius was performing an autopsy on an aristocrat in Spain when it was found that the heart was still beating, leading to the Inquisition condemning him to death. The story went on to claim that Philip II had the sentence transformed into a pilgrimage. The story re-surfaced several times over the next few years, living on until recent times.

De Corporis Fabrica

In 1543, Vesalius asked Johannes Oporinus
Johannes Oporinus
Johannes Oporinus was a humanist printer in Basel, the son of the painter Hans Herbst- Life :...

 to help publish the seven-volume De humani corporis fabrica
De humani corporis fabrica
De humani corporis fabrica libri septem is a textbook of human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius in 1543....

(On the fabric of the human body), a groundbreaking work of human anatomy
Human anatomy
Human anatomy is primarily the scientific study of the morphology of the human body. Anatomy is subdivided into gross anatomy and microscopic anatomy. Gross anatomy is the study of anatomical structures that can be seen by the naked eye...

 he dedicated to Charles V and which most believe was illustrated by Titian
Titian
Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio Tiziano Vecelli or Tiziano Vecellio (c. 1488/1490 – 27 August 1576 better known as Titian was an Italian painter, the most important member of the 16th-century Venetian school. He was born in Pieve di Cadore, near...

's pupil Jan Stephen van Calcar
Jan Van Calcar
Jan Steven van Calcar was a Netherlandish-born Italian painter.-Life:Calcar was born in the Duchy of Cleves sometime between 1499 and 1510. Vasari refers to him several times, mainly with respect to his having been a pupil of Titian...

, though others believe was illustrated by different artists working in the studio of Titian, and not from Van Calcar himself.

A few weeks later he published another version of his opera, entitled De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome (Abridgement of the Structure of the Human Body) more commonly known as Epitome, with a stronger focus on illustrations than text, so as to help readers easily understand his findings. The actual text of Epitome was an abridged form of his work in De fabrica, and the organization of the two books were quite varied. He dedicated it to Philip II of Spain
Philip II of Spain
Philip II was King of Spain, Portugal, Naples, Sicily, and, while married to Mary I, King of England and Ireland. He was lord of the Seventeen Provinces from 1556 until 1581, holding various titles for the individual territories such as duke or count....

, son of the Emperor.

The Fabrica emphasized the priority of dissection and what has come to be called the "anatomical" view of the body, seeing human internal functioning as an essentially corporeal structure filled with organs arranged in three-dimensional space. This was in stark contrast to many of the anatomical models used previously, which had strong Galenic/Aristotelean elements, as well as elements of astrology
Astrology
Astrology consists of a number of belief systems which hold that there is a relationship between astronomical phenomena and events in the human world...

. Although modern anatomical texts had been published by Mondino
Mondino de Liuzzi
Mondino de Luzzi, or de Liuzzi or de Lucci, , also known as Mundinus, was an Italian physician, anatomist, and professor of surgery who lived and worked in Bologna...

 and Berenger
Jacopo Berengario da Carpi
Jacopo Berengario da Carpi was an Italian physician. His book "Anatomia Carpi" published in 1535 made him the most important anatomist before Andreas Vesalius.-Early years:Jacopo Berengario da Carpi was the son of a surgeon...

, much of their work was clouded by their reverence for Galen and Arabian doctrines.

Besides the first good description of the sphenoid bone
Sphenoid bone
The sphenoid bone is an unpaired bone situated at the base of the skull in front of the temporal bone and basilar part of the occipital bone.The sphenoid bone is one of the seven bones that articulate to form the orbit...

, he showed that the sternum consists of three portions and the sacrum
Sacrum
In vertebrate anatomy the sacrum is a large, triangular bone at the base of the spine and at the upper and back part of the pelvic cavity, where it is inserted like a wedge between the two hip bones. Its upper part connects with the last lumbar vertebra, and bottom part with the coccyx...

 of five or six; and described accurately the vestibule
Vestibule of the ear
-Definition:The vestibule is the central part of the osseous labyrinth, and is situated medial to the tympanic cavity, behind the cochlea, and in front of the semicircular canals.The etymology comes from the Latin vestibulum, literally an entrance hall....

 in the interior of the temporal bone. He not only verified the observation of Etienne on the valves of the hepatic veins, but he described the vena azygos, and discovered the canal which passes in the fetus between the umbilical vein and the vena cava, since named ductus venosus
Ductus venosus
In the fetus, the ductus venosus shunts approximately half of the blood flow of the umbilical vein directly to the inferior vena cava. Thus, it allows oxygenated blood from the placenta to bypass the liver. In conjunction with the other fetal shunts, the foramen ovale and ductus arteriosus, it...

. He described the omentum
Omentum
Omentum may refer to:* greater omentum* lesser omentum...

, and its connections with the stomach, the spleen
Spleen
The spleen is an organ found in virtually all vertebrate animals with important roles in regard to red blood cells and the immune system. In humans, it is located in the left upper quadrant of the abdomen. It removes old red blood cells and holds a reserve of blood in case of hemorrhagic shock...

 and the colon
Colon (anatomy)
The colon is the last part of the digestive system in most vertebrates; it extracts water and salt from solid wastes before they are eliminated from the body, and is the site in which flora-aided fermentation of unabsorbed material occurs. Unlike the small intestine, the colon does not play a...

; gave the first correct views of the structure of the pylorus
Pylorus
The pylorus is the region of the stomach that connects to the duodenum . It is divided into two parts:* the pyloric antrum, which connects to the body of the stomach.* the pyloric canal, which connects to the duodenum....

; observed the small size of the caecal appendix in man; gave the first good account of the mediastinum
Mediastinum
The mediastinum is a non-delineated group of structures in the thorax, surrounded by loose connective tissue. It is the central compartment of the thoracic cavity...

 and pleura and the fullest description of the anatomy of the brain yet advanced. He did not understand the inferior recesses; and his account of the nerves is confused by regarding the optic as the first pair, the third as the fifth and the fifth as the seventh.

In this work, Vesalius also becomes the first person to describe mechanical ventilation
Mechanical ventilation
In medicine, mechanical ventilation is a method to mechanically assist or replace spontaneous breathing. This may involve a machine called a ventilator or the breathing may be assisted by a physician, respiratory therapist or other suitable person compressing a bag or set of bellows...

.

Quote

  • "When I undertake the dissection of a human cadaver I pass a stout rope tied like a noose beneath the lower jaw and through the zygomas up to the top of the head... The lower end of the noose I run through a pulley fixed to a beam in the room so that I may raise or lower the cadaver as it hangs there or turn around in any direction to suit my purpose; ... You must take care not to put the noose around the neck, unless some of the muscles connected to the occipital bone have already been cut away. ..." --Andreas Vesalius, 595:2 of Bynum & Porter, Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations 2005

Other publications

In 1538, Vesalius wrote Epistola, docens venam axillarem dextri cubiti in dolore laterali secundam (A letter, teaching that in cases of pain in the side, the axillary vein of the right elbow be cut) which demonstrated a revived venesection, a classical procedure in which blood was drawn near the site of the ailment. He sought to locate the precise site for venesection in pleurisy
Pleurisy
Pleurisy is an inflammation of the pleura, the lining of the pleural cavity surrounding the lungs. Among other things, infections are the most common cause of pleurisy....

 within the framework of the classical method. The real significance of the book attempt to support his arguments by the location and continuity of the venous system from his observations rather than appeal to earlier published works. With this novel approach to the problem of venesection, Vesalius posed the then striking hypothesis that anatomical dissection might be used to test speculation.

Skeletal system

  • Vesalius believed the skeletal system to be the framework of the human body. It was in this opening chapter, or book, of De fabrica
    De humani corporis fabrica
    De humani corporis fabrica libri septem is a textbook of human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius in 1543....

     that Vesalius made several of his strongest claims against Galen's
    Galen
    Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

     theories and writings which he had put in his anatomy books. In his extensive study of the skull, Vesalius
    Vesalius
    Andreas Vesalius was a Flemish anatomist, physician, and author of one of the most influential books on human anatomy, De humani corporis fabrica . Vesalius is often referred to as the founder of modern human anatomy. Vesalius is the Latinized form of Andries van Wesel...

     claimed that the mandible consisted of one bone, whereas Galen had thought it was two separate bones. He accurately described the vestibule
    Vestibule
    Vestibule or Vestibulum can have the following meanings, each primarily based upon a common origin, from early 17th century French, derived from Latin vestibulum, -i n. "entrance court".-Anatomy:...

     in the interior of the temporal bone
    Temporal bone
    The temporal bones are situated at the sides and base of the skull, and lateral to the temporal lobes of the cerebrum.The temporal bone supports that part of the face known as the temple.-Parts:The temporal bone consists of four parts:* Squama temporalis...

     of the skull.
  • In Galen's
    Galen
    Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

     observation of the ape, he had discovered that their sternum
    Sternum
    The sternum or breastbone is a long flat bony plate shaped like a capital "T" located anteriorly to the heart in the center of the thorax...

     consisted of seven parts which he assumed held true for humans. Vesalius discovered that the human sternum only consisted of three parts.
  • He also disproved the common belief that men had one rib fewer than women and noted that fibula and tibia
    Tibia
    The tibia , shinbone, or shankbone is the larger and stronger of the two bones in the leg below the knee in vertebrates , and connects the knee with the ankle bones....

     bones of the leg were indeed larger than the humerus
    Humerus
    The humerus is a long bone in the arm or forelimb that runs from the shoulder to the elbow....

     bone of the arm, unlike Galen
    Galen
    Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

    's original findings.

Muscular system

  • Vesalius' most impressive contribution to the study of the muscular system
    Muscular system
    The muscular system is the anatomical system of a species that allows it to move. The muscular system in vertebrates is controlled through the nervous system, although some muscles can be completely autonomous.- Muscles :...

     may be the illustrations that accompany the text in De fabrica, which would become known as the "muscle men". He describes the source and position of each muscle of the body as well as providing information on their respective operations.

Vascular and circulatory systems

  • Vesalius' work on the vascular
    Vascular
    Vascular in zoology and medicine means "related to blood vessels", which are part of the circulatory system. An organ or tissue that is vascularized is heavily endowed with blood vessels and thus richly supplied with blood....

     and circulatory system
    Circulatory system
    The circulatory system is an organ system that passes nutrients , gases, hormones, blood cells, etc...

    s was his greatest contribution to the complex and modern medicine. In his dissections of the heart, Vesalius became convinced that Galen's claims of a porous Intraventricular septum
    Septum
    In anatomy, a septum is a wall, dividing a cavity or structure into smaller ones.-In human anatomy:...

     were false. It took until the second edition that he said that the septum was indeed waterproof, discovering (and naming), the mitral valve
    Mitral valve
    The mitral valve is a dual-flap valve in the heart that lies between the left atrium and the left ventricle...

     to explain the blood flow.
  • Vesalius believed that the cardiac systole
    Systole (medicine)
    Systole is the contraction of the heart. Used alone, it usually means the contraction of the left ventricle.In all mammals, the heart has 4 chambers. The left and right ventricles pump together. The atria and ventricles pump in sequence...

     is synchronous with the arterial pulse.
  • He not only verified Estienne's
    Charles Estienne
    Charles Estienne was an early exponent of the science of anatomy in France. Charles was a younger brother of Robert Estienne, the famous printer, and son to Henri, who Latinized the family name as Stephanus. He married Geneviève de Berly....

     findings on the valves of the hepatic veins, but he described the Azygos
    Azygos
    In anatomy, azygos, from the Greek άζυξ, refers to a structure that is unpaired. This is relatively unusual, as most elements of anatomy reflect bilateral symmetry. Another term for the same concept is impar....

    , and discovered the canal which passes into the fetus between the umbilical vein
    Umbilical vein
    The umbilical vein is a vein present during fetal development that carries oxygenated blood from the placenta to the growing fetus.The blood pressure inside the umbilical vein is approximately 20 mmHg.-Development:...

     and vena cava.
  • He also took note of the inferior mesenteric
    Inferior mesenteric vein
    In human anatomy, the inferior mesenteric vein is a blood vessel that drains blood from the large intestine. It usually terminates when reaching the splenic vein, which goes on to form the portal vein with the superior mesenteric vein...

     and haemorrhoid veins
    Superior rectal vein
    The inferior mesenteric vein begins in the rectum as the superior rectal vein , which has its origin in the hemorrhoidal plexus, and through this plexus communicates with the middle and inferior hemorrhoidal veins....

    .

Nervous system

  • Vesalius defined a nerve as the mode of transmitting sensation and motion and thus refuted his contemporaries' claims that ligaments, tendons and aponeuroses were three types of nerve units. He believed that nerves do not originate from the heart, as was the Aristotelian
    Aristotelianism
    Aristotelianism is a tradition of philosophy that takes its defining inspiration from the work of Aristotle. The works of Aristotle were initially defended by the members of the Peripatetic school, and, later on, by the Neoplatonists, who produced many commentaries on Aristotle's writings...

     belief, but that nerves stemmed from the brain.
  • Upon studying the optic nerve
    Optic nerve
    The optic nerve, also called cranial nerve 2, transmits visual information from the retina to the brain. Derived from the embryonic retinal ganglion cell, a diverticulum located in the diencephalon, the optic nerve doesn't regenerate after transection.-Anatomy:The optic nerve is the second of...

    , Vesalius came to the conclusion that nerves were not hollow.

Abdominal organs

  • Although Vesalius accepted Galen's inaccurate claim that the liver
    Liver
    The liver is a vital organ present in vertebrates and some other animals. It has a wide range of functions, including detoxification, protein synthesis, and production of biochemicals necessary for digestion...

     was the locale of blood production, he would not accept that the vena cava stems from the liver. He also disproved Galen's belief that the liver consisted of five lobes, and stated that is, instead, one lobe.
  • In De fabrica, he corrected an earlier claim he made in Tabulae about the right kidney being set higher than the left. Vesalius claimed that the kidneys were not a filter device for the urine to pass through but rather that the kidneys serve to filter blood as well and that the excrement then traveled through the ureters to the bladder.
  • He described the omentum
    Omentum
    Omentum may refer to:* greater omentum* lesser omentum...

    , and its connections with the stomach, the spleen and the colon and gave the first correct views of the structure of the pylorus
    Pylorus
    The pylorus is the region of the stomach that connects to the duodenum . It is divided into two parts:* the pyloric antrum, which connects to the body of the stomach.* the pyloric canal, which connects to the duodenum....

    .
  • He also observed the small size of the caecal appendix in man and gave the first good account of the mediastinum
    Mediastinum
    The mediastinum is a non-delineated group of structures in the thorax, surrounded by loose connective tissue. It is the central compartment of the thoracic cavity...

     and pleura.
  • Vesalius admitted that due to a lack of pregnant cadavers, he was unable to come to a significant understanding of the reproductive organs. However, he did find that the uterus had been falsely identified as having two distinct sections.

Heart

  • Through his work with muscles, Vesalius believed that a criterion for muscles was their voluntary motion. On this claim, he deduced that the heart was not a true muscle due to its obvious involuntary nature of its motion.
  • He identified two chambers and two atria. The right atrium
    Right atrium
    The right atrium is one of four chambers in the hearts of mammals and archosaurs...

     was considered a continuation of the inferior
    Inferior vena cava
    The inferior vena cava , also known as the posterior vena cava, is the large vein that carries de-oxygenated blood from the lower half of the body into the right atrium of the heart....

     and superior
    Superior vena cava
    The superior vena cava is truly superior, a large diameter, yet short, vein that carries deoxygenated blood from the upper half of the body to the heart's right atrium...

     venae cavae
    Venae cavae
    The superior and inferior vena cava are collectively called the venae cavae. They are the veins that return deoxygenated blood from the body into the heart. They both empty into the right atrium....

     and the left atrium
    Left atrium
    The left atrium is one of the four chambers in the human heart. It receives oxygenated blood from the pulmonary veins, and pumps it into the left ventricle, via the mitral valve.-Foramen ovale:...

     was considered a continuation of the pulmonary vein
    Pulmonary vein
    The pulmonary veins are large blood vessels that carry blood from the lungs to the left atrium of the heart. In humans there are four pulmonary veins, two from each lung...

    .
  • Interestingly, he also addressed the controversial issue of the heart being the center of the soul. He wished to avoid making any conclusions due to the possible conflict with contemporary religious beliefs.

Brain

  • Vesalius' most significant contribution to the study of the brain was his trademark illustrations in which he depicts the corpus callosum
    Corpus callosum
    The corpus callosum , also known as the colossal commissure, is a wide, flat bundle of neural fibers beneath the cortex in the eutherian brain at the longitudinal fissure. It connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres and facilitates interhemispheric communication...

    , the thalamus
    Thalamus
    The thalamus is a midline paired symmetrical structure within the brains of vertebrates, including humans. It is situated between the cerebral cortex and midbrain, both in terms of location and neurological connections...

    , the caudate nucleus
    Caudate nucleus
    The caudate nucleus is a nucleus located within the basal ganglia of the brains of many animal species. The caudate nucleus is an important part of the brain's learning and memory system.-Anatomy:...

    , the lenticular nucleus, the globus pallidus
    Globus pallidus
    The globus pallidus also known as paleostriatum, is a sub-cortical structure of the brain. Topographically, it is part of the telencephalon, but retains close functional ties with the subthalamus - both of which are part of the extrapyramidal motor system...

    , the putamen
    Putamen
    The putamen is a round structure located at the base of the forebrain . The putamen and caudate nucleus together form the dorsal striatum. It is also one of the structures that comprises the basal ganglia. Through various pathways, the putamen is connected to the substantia nigra and globus pallidus...

    , the pulvinar
    Pulvinar
    The pulvinar nuclei are a collection of nuclei located in the pulvinar thalamus. The pulvinar part is the most posterior region of the thalamus....

    , and the cerebral peduncle
    Cerebral peduncle
    Mainly, the three common areas that give rise to the cerebral peduncles are the cortex, the spinal cord and the cerebellum. The cerebral peduncle, by most classifications, is everything in the mesencephalon except the tectum. The region includes the midbrain tegmentum, crus cerebri and pretectum...

    s for the first time.

Miscellaneous

  • Vesalius introduced the notion of induction of the extraction of empyema
    Empyema
    Pleural empyema is an accumulation of pus in the pleural cavity. Most pleural empyemas arise from an infection within the lung , often associated with parapneumonic effusions. There are three stages: exudative, fibrinopurulent and organizing. In the exudative stage, the pus accumulates...

     through surgical means.
  • Due to his impressive study of the human skull and the variations of its features he is said to have been responsible for the launch of the study of physical anthropology
    Physical anthropology
    Biological anthropology is that branch of anthropology that studies the physical development of the human species. It plays an important part in paleoanthropology and in forensic anthropology...

    .
  • Vesalius always encouraged his students to check their findings, and even his own findings, so that they could better understand the structure of the human body.
  • In addition to his continual efforts to study anatomy he also worked on medicinal remedies and came to such conclusions as treating syphilis with chinaroot.
  • Vesalius believed that the brain and the nervous system are center of the mind and emotion in contrast to the common Aristotelian belief that the heart was the center of the body.
  • Claimed medicine was arranged into three parts: drugs, diet, and 'the use of hands' - mainly suggesting surgery and the knowledge of anatomy and physiology through dissection.
  • Vesalius was a supporter of 'parallel dissections' in which an animal cadaver and a human cadaver are dissected simultaneously in order to demonstrate the anatomical differences and thus uncover Galenic errors.

Scientific and historical impact

Modern medicine is forever in debt to the efforts put forth by Vesalius and his ethic to provide the most accurate form of the human body. The manner in which Vesalius tended to his work could arguably be thought of as more significant than the work itself. By overthrowing the Galenic tradition and relying on his own observations, Vesalius created a new scientific method. His desire to strive for the truth is most evident through his ability to correct his own claims and to continually reshape his thoughts on the human body. Through his attention to detail, he was able to provide clear descriptions and unprecedented anatomical drawings that set a new standard for future medical books.

The influence of Vesalius' plates representing the partial dissections of the human figure posing in a landscape setting is apparent in the anatomical plates prepared by the Baroque painter Pietro da Cortona
Pietro da Cortona
Pietro da Cortona, by the name of Pietro Berrettini, born Pietro Berrettini da Cortona, was the leading Italian Baroque painter of his time and also one of the key architects in the emergence of Roman Baroque architecture. He was also an important decorator...

 (1596–1669), who executed anatomical plates with figures in dramatic poses, most with architectural or landscape backdrops.

During the twentieth century, the American artist, Jacob Lawrence
Jacob Lawrence
Jacob Lawrence was an American painter; he was married to fellow artist Gwendolyn Knight. Lawrence referred to his style as "dynamic cubism", though by his own account the primary influence was not so much French art as the shapes and colors of Harlem.Lawrence is among the best-known twentieth...

 created his Vesalius Suite based on the anatomical drawings of Andreas Vesalius.

See also

  • De humani corporis fabrica
    De humani corporis fabrica
    De humani corporis fabrica libri septem is a textbook of human anatomy written by Andreas Vesalius in 1543....

  • Physician writer
  • Timeline of medicine and medical technology
    Timeline of medicine and medical technology
    - Antiquity :* 2600 BC – Imhotep wrote texts on ancient Egyptian medicine describing diagnosis and treatment of 200 diseases in 3rd dynasty Egypt.* 1500 BC – Saffron used as a medicine on the Aegean island of Thera in ancient Greece...

  • Galen
    Galen
    Aelius Galenus or Claudius Galenus , better known as Galen of Pergamon , was a prominent Roman physician, surgeon and philosopher...

  • Medical Renaissance
    Medical Renaissance
    Medical Renaissance is the term often applied to the period, around 1400 to 1700, of major progress in medical knowledge and a renewed interest in the ancient ideas of the Greeks and Romans. This movement was made possible by the Reformation of the Church, a decline in Conservatism, the work of...

  • University of Padua
    University of Padua
    The University of Padua is a premier Italian university located in the city of Padua, Italy. The University of Padua was founded in 1222 as a school of law and was one of the most prominent universities in early modern Europe. It is among the earliest universities of the world and the second...

  • InVesalius
    InVesalius
    InVesalius is a free medical software used to reconstruct structures of the human body. Based on two-dimensional images, acquired using Computed tomography or Magnetic resonance imaging equipments, the software generates virtual three-dimensional models correspondent to anatomical parts of the...


External links

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