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History of Anatomy

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History of Anatomy
Early Greeks
Greeks explained illness in terms of the
4 body humors (fluids).
 Thought the humors were governed
by air, water, fire, and earth
 Healthy person had all four humors in
 Bloodletting was a way of getting rid
of excess humors.
Physicians had to know the
proper prayers and charms
wherewith to approach "Apollo
the Healer," who would tell
them what kind of herb poultice
to put on a wound.
Many “doctors” practiced by trial
and error. If they made a lot of
errors, people quit going to them.
Socles, a physician, treated a
hunchback by piling three solid
stones, each four feet square, on
his spine. He was crushed and
died, but he became straighter.
Hippocrates (460 to 379 BC)
 Early Greek physician
 Believed that illness
had a physical cause
 Rejected
 Based medical
treatments on
Role of Religion
 Many religions influenced the study of the
 Against church doctrine to dissect a
Claudius Galen (120 to 200)
 Roman
“team doctor”
for the
 Kept them alive
so they could
fight again.
 Did not dissect humans, but did
extensive work on pigs and
 His mistake was to assume that
humans and animals were identical
 His writings were taken as “law”
for hundred of years.
drawing based
Leonardo Da Vinci (1452 to 1519)
Artists in Renaissance period
interested in human form, so
studied anatomy.
Da Vinci made hundreds of
anatomically correct drawings.
He dissected bodies in secret.
Andreas Vesalius (1514 to 1564)
Barber surgeon (combination
barber, dentist, doctor).
Got special permission from the
Pope to dissect criminals.
First scientist to understand human
Wrote the first accurate book on
human anatomy – Fabrica.
Shortage of cadavers
 In England and Scotland, medical
schools began to open.
 No one donated bodies to science
– churchgoers believed in literal
rising from grave, so dissection
spoiled chances of resurrection.
 Became a tradition to rely on
executed prisoners, even up to
18th and 19th centuries.
Serious Crimes
 The added punishment of being
dissected after death was considered
another deterrent from crime.
 Ex. – Steal a pig: you were hung
Kill a person: you were hung
and dissected
 Anatomists were often associated
with executioners.
 Because they needed body parts,
anatomists at medical school
bought odd things.
 A man could sell the leg of his son
if it had to be amputated
William Harvey (English)
Circa 1590
 “Father of Anatomy”; studied
circulatory system
 Harvey dissected his own
freshly dead family members
(his father and sister) before
Grave Robbing
 Some medical students raided
grave yards; some professors
did also.
 In certain Scottish schools in
1700s, you could trade a
corpse for your tuition.
 By 1828 in London, body snatchers
(or resurrectionists) provided the
medical schools with corpses.
 Not a crime; a dead body could not
be owned or stolen.
 (Anatomy studies were only
conducted from October to May to
avoid stench of decomposition.)
 Wealthy people chose to be buried
in iron cages, some covered in
concrete. Also churches built
“dead houses” which were locked
and guarded.
William Burke and William Hare
Circa 1828
 2 resurrectionists
 Hare owned a boarding house; he
occasionally killed a border who
was late on rent. (Killed 15 of them)
 Did it by pressing pillow to man’s
face while Burke lay his body
weight on top of victim. Became
known as “Burking.”
 Bones made into skeletons for
medical school. Skin used to make
 Anatomy Act of 1832 – bodies of
poor who were not claimed for
burial could be used by
 Operated under this same concept
until recently.
 Donations are on the rise.
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