Anatomy, Its Origins and Development

(the science of bodily structures and parts as discovered and developed over the centuries by means of dissections)

The English Term for Anatomy Came to Us from Ancient Greek Sources

Anatomy refers to the information and knowledge gained from "cuttings and dissections" and not to the procedures that took place in history nor in current research.

  • In the middle of the 16th century, instructors of medicine started the practice of careful dissections of human cadavers.
  • The man who has been given the most credit for the development of anatomy is Andreas Vesalus (1514-1564), a Belgian physician who led the revolution in this kind of research and who not only dissected bodies, but also used detailed illustrations to teach anatomy to students.
  • Modern anatomical research has involved much more than the mere description of bodily structures and includes more understanding of the bodily functions.

  • Vesalius found several anatomical errors that were presented in ancient texts; for example, doctors assumed that men had one less rib than women, and they also thought that emotional processes took place in the heart rather than in the brain.
  • For four yeas, Vesalius compiled his information while utilizing the assistance of skilled artists and craftsmen using copperplate engraving.
  • In 1543, he published what is still considered to be his "masterwork", De humani corporis fabrica, or translated as, "On the Structure of the Human Body".
  • Relying on experimentation rather than on inherited but often mistaken "knowledge", resulted in the anatomists being credited with motivating the Scientific Revolution of the following century with many disciplines besides anatomy.
  • Some people perceive anatomy as being a "foul-smelling" place filled with cold bodies of human beings that are being utilized by students who are going through the process so they can get into the medical profession.
  • Modern developments of methods for the study of bodily structures is now being presented in computers to obtain the images that will help students gain greater knowledge of the anatomical processes of bodies in addition to the anatomical dissecting procedures and printed content of texts and other related publications.

—Compiled from information located in the following sources:

"Anatomy" in Inventions and Discoveries by Rodney Carlisle;
John Wiley & Sons, Inc.; Hoboken, New Jersey; 2004; pages 90-91.

"Anatomy" by Michael D. Gershon in Dictionary of Science and Technology;
Academic Press, Inc.; Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Publishers;
New York; 1992; page 108.

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