Andreas Vesalius

Description of Vesalius, what medicine was like before, his achievments, factors that helped him, factors that hindered him, limitations. 

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Medicine Before Vesalius

Medicine before: 

  • People didn't understand the importance of anatomy to medicine
  • People still believed the idea's of Hippocrates and Galen
  • Dissection was carried out to prove Galen right
  • No enquiry or challenging of ideas 
  • Opposed to change
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Achievements of Vesalius

  • Fabric of the Human Body - 1543, first detailed, illustrated book on human anatomy 
  • Vesalius showed that Galen was wrong, although he respected Galen, Vesalius said that: The human jaw is one bone, not two as Galen said. Galen said the breastbone had seven parts but Vesalius showed it had three. Vesalius also proved that blood doesn't flow into the heart through invisible holes in the septum, no such holes exist. 
  • Vesalius showed doctors that anatomy was important, and that they could learn more about anatomy through human dissections. 
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Factors that Helped Vesalius

New Technology

  • The printing press (invented 1440 but not widely used until 1500s) allowed Vesalius to mass produce his book with no errors, which greatly increased the impact that his work had.

Role of the Individual

  • Vesalius was determined and keen - he was willing to take risks to learn and study, for example, stealing the body of a hung criminal in order to map out the entire human anatomy. This was a crime punishable by death, but Vesalius took the risk. 

Renaissance Art

  • Artists such as Leonardo Da Vinci were interested in dissection and illustrated Vesalius' book. 
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Factors that hindered Vesalius

Many doctors were unwilling to accept that Galen could be wrong, and that they had been practicing and teaching incorrectly - they were opposed to change and resented Vesalius. 

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Limitations and Impact


The printing press meant that the Fabric of the Human Body (Vesalius' book) could be extensively produced and therefore the potential impact was increased, however some doctors were completely opposed to change and refused to accept what Vesalius was saying. 


Nobody was actually healthier because of Vesalius' work - he didn't develop any new cures or treatments. 

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very helpful

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