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PPT A Brief History of the Study of Human Anatomy

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A Brief History of the Study
Human Anatomy
Early Egyptians
• Perfected the science of
• Major organs were
removed and placed in
• Body cavity was filled
with a “sawdust-like”
• Body was wrapped in
linen cloth shrouds.
Alexandria, Egypt
• The study of anatomy flourished in
Alexandria between 300-150 B.C.
• Only criminals were allowed to be
dissected because these early cultures
were very superstitious and believed that
an intact body was necessary for a
successful afterlife.
Roman Influence
• In 30 B.C. Alexandria was
conquered by the Roman
• The Romans were
interested in power,
wealth and military
strength, not in
anatomical studies.
• Romans outlawed
anatomical studies and
human dissections.
Roman Empire
Galen of Pergamen
• Perhaps one of the brightest spots in the
early history of anatomy was the work of a
Greek physician named Galen (120-300
• Galen had been trained in the Alexandrian
tradition and wanted to further the
scientific study of the human body.
Galen of Pergamen
120-300 A.D.
Galen’s Work
• Because human dissections were
outlawed by the Romans, Galen wrote an
anatomy textbook based on his
dissections of the Barbary ape, a primate
similar to man.
• While the text was helpful it had many
The Barbary Ape
Title Page of Galen’s Anatomy Text
Illustration from Galen’s Text
Galen’s Influence
• Galen’s anatomy
textbook, based on
the dissection of the
Barbary ape, became
the accepted authority
on human anatomy
for 1300 years!
• How could this be?
The Dark Ages (400 – 1100 A.D.)
• Barbarians from
Asia, such as Attila
and the Huns,
overran and
destroyed the Roman
• Many of the scientific
writings were
Dark Ages
• Fortunately some of
these documents
were salvaged by the
Moslems and
translated into their
language, Arabic.
• About 1100 A.D.,
Christian scholars
discovered these Arabic
translations and began
the slow process of
translating them into
• This exposed a wealth of
lost and forgotten
• Not until the 16th century
were these works finally
First Autopsy
• In the year 1286 we
have reference to a
human dissection
being performed to
determine the cause
of death.
• Today, this procedure
is called an autopsy.
Rise of Medical Schools
• By the early 1300’s anatomical studies
were again becoming fashionable.
• In the medical schools in Italy anatomy
professors were highly respected figures
and so they would sit in large throne-like
chairs, wear academic robes, and read
from the re-translated text of Galen.
Rise of Medical Schools
• Barbers actually
performed the
dissections on human
subjects while
students stood and
• Students were not
allowed to participate
in the dissections.
A Major Contribution
• During the early Renaissance years,
artists, sculptors and painters strove to
make their artwork as human and life-like
as possible.
• To do this, they had to study human
anatomy on a first-hand basis; that is, they
had to perform their own human
A Major Contribution
• One of the most famous
of these Renaissance
artists was Leonardo
• His anatomically accurate
drawings gave to
anatomists for the first
time illustrations with
correct anatomical
proportions and great
attention to detail.
DaVinci’s “Last Supper”
Mona Lisa
Leonardo’s Anatomy Drawings
Leonardo’s Anatomy Drawings
Andreas Vesalius
• The man who
revolutionized the study
of anatomy was Andreas
• He realized that to learn
anatomy students needed
to be involved with the
• He also realized that
Galen’s textbook was
severely flawed and must
be replaced.
Andreas Vesalius
• Vesalius revolutionized the study of
anatomy by doing away with the barbers,
instead doing human dissections himself
and having students assist instead of just
• He also published his own anatomy
textbook which contained many
anatomically accurate drawings based on
human dissections.
De Humani Corporis Fabrica (1543)
De Humani Corporis Fabrica
De Humani Corporis Fabrica
De Humani Corporis Fabrica
Killing Sacred Cows
• Vesalius introduced the idea of “killing
sacred cows”, that is, challenging
accepted authority for the purpose of
improving it.
• Because of his revolutionary work at the
University of Padua, Andreas Vesalius is
considered to be the “Father of Modern
• Vesalius was
replaced at the
University of Padua
by a man named
• Fabricius discovered
the presence of oneway valves in veins,
he called them the
“little doors”.
“Little Doors”
William Harvey
• The English physician, William
Harvey, a student of Fabricius,
became interested in the
circulation of the blood.
• Harvey was the first person to
describe the heart as a pump
for blood and he also described
arteries and veins as blood
vessels that carry blood
throughout the body.
William Harvey
• Harvey showed that
“function can be
inferred from
structure” and thus
became known as the
“Father of
Marcello Malpighi
• With the development of
the microscope, the
Italian anatomist, Marcello
Malpighi was able to see
the tiny blood vessels that
Harvey could not see but
had predicted their
• These tiny vessels
Malpighi named
“capillaries”, which
means “hair-like” in Latin.
The End? (anyone been to this
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