Andreas Vesalius

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Vesalius, Andreas

Vesalius, Andreas (vĭsāˈlēəs), 1514–64, Flemish anatomist. He made many discoveries in anatomy and became noted as professor of anatomy at the Univ. of Padua. There he produced his chief work, De humani corporis fabrica (1543), based on studies made by dissection of human cadavers; the notable illustrations are attributed to Jan von Calcar. Vesalius's condensation (1543) appeared in English as The Epitome of Andreas Vesalius (1949). His work overthrew many of the hitherto-uncontested doctrines of the second-century anatomist Galen, and caused a storm of criticism from other anatomists. Vesalius's work was revolutionary, as he was among the first to perform thorough cadaver dissections himself. He showed that Galen's anatomy was merely an attempt to apply animal structure to the human body, and was not based on any direct knowledge of human anatomy. He left Padua, becoming physician to Emperor Charles V and to his son Philip II. In 1563, he made a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and on the return voyage died in Greece.


See biography by C. D. O'Malley (1964); J. B. de C. M. Saunders and C. D. O'Malley, Illustrations from the Works of Andreas Vesalius (1950, repr. 1973).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Vesalius, Andreas


Born Dec. 31, 1514, in Brussels; died Oct. 15, 1564, island of Zante. Renaissance naturalist; founder of scientific anatomy.

Vesalius studied medicine at Montpellier, then Paris. In 1537 he received the degree of doctor of surgery at Basel. From 1539 he taught anatomy at the University of Padua (northern Italy). Vesalius illustrated his teaching of anatomy by dissecting cadavers. In the work On the Structure of the Human Body, published in Basel (1543), he gave a description of the human body based on his own research. This work by Vesalius became the scientific basis for modern anatomy. He rejected Galen’s teachings on the system of the movement of blood in the organism. Galen’s teachings had prevailed for 14 centuries and had been canonized by the church; they served as the basis for the subsequent discovery of blood circulation by W. Harvey.

Among Vesalius’ other works are Anatomical Notebooks (1538) and Letters on Bloodletting (1539). Vesalius contributed a great deal to creating new terminology and making old terms more precise. Vesalius’ denial of Galen’s authority and his conflict with the church made many enemies for him. Driven to despair, he burned some of his manuscripts and materials and accepted an offer to move to Madrid as court physician to Charles V. His enemies forced a trial by the Inquisition, which sentenced him to a pilgrimage to Palestine. On the way back, Vesalius, already ill, was shipwrecked and cast on the island of Zante, where he died.


O stroenii chelovecheskogo tela, vols. 1-2. Moscow, 1950-54. (Translated from Latin.)


Kupriianov, V. V. A. Vezaliiv istoriianatomii imeditsiny. Moscow, 1964. (Bibliography.)
Ternovskii. V. N. A. Vezalii (1514-1564). Moscow, 1965. (Bibliography.)


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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