Renaissance Medicine


Andreas Vesalius - Anatomy

  • Studied anatomy and became a professor at Padua University
  • He was allowed to do dissections
  • His book ‘on the fabric one the Human Body’ (1543.) Which included accurate drawings and illustrations of his findings.
  • Corrected Galen’s mistakes: no hole in the septum (heart); jaw bone was one bone, not two
  • He encouraged others like William Harvey to partake in dissections to develop medical research. 
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William Harvey - Circulation of Blood

  • Discovered circulation of blood and disapproved Galen's ideas
  • Identified arteries and veins in the body
  • Book 'An anatomical account of the motion of the heart and blood'
  • Blood groups were found in 1901 which improved blood transfusions
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Ambroise Paré - Surgery

  • Was a battlefield surgeon - 20 years as a barber-surgeon and participated in French Army campaigns
  • 1536 - used cautery oil to heal gun-shot wounds which worked better with rose oil
  • 1575 - he published 'Apology and treatise' which changed the treatment of wounds and amputations
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Change in the Renaissance Period

  • Many superstitious beliefs were challenged
  • Discoveries in anatomy and surgeries began to change
  • It took a long time for people to accept their ideas
  • Thomas Sydenham - observations and patient records

The Printing Press -

  • Invented by Johannes Gutenberg
  • It enabled medical ideas to be spread quicker and cheaper with more accuracy
  • Was not controlled by the Church so anything could be published

The Royal Society - 

  • Was formed in 1660 
  • Promoted the exchange of ideas so experts could reconfirm eachothers theory's
  • Scientific Journal - Philosophical Transactions
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The Great Plague - 1665


  • Miasma was the most common cause
  • An imbalance in the humours
  • People knew that it could be passed from person to person


  • Many people were quarantined
  • Herbal treatments 
  • Pest houses
  • Large gatherings were banned
  • Transference: transfer the disease to animals
  • Sweating the disease out
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Continuity in the Renaissance Period

  • Miasma as a cause of the disease was still believed by a few people
  • Theory of the 4 humours was still accepted and used by 1700 physicians
  • Bloodletting and purging were used to resolve an imbalance in the 4 humours.
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