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    Andreas Vesalius Essay

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    Andreas Vesalius I. Biography Andreas Vesalius was born on Dec. 31, 1514, in Brussels, the son of Andries van Wesele and his wife, Isabel Crabbe. Vesalius’s paternal ancestors, who hailed from the German town of Wesel, came to Brussels in the early 15th century and became prominent as physicians and pharmacists. His father served as pharmacist to Margaret of Austria and later to Emperor Charles V. His great-grandfather, Johannes Wesalia, was the head of the medical school at the University of Louvain, where Vesalius started his medical studies in 1530.

    He matriculated as Andres van Wesel de Bruxella. In 1533 Vesalius transferred to the medical school of the University of Paris. One of his two teachers of anatomy there was Johann Guenther von Andernach, a personable man but a poor anatomist. The other was Jacobus Sylvius, who departed from tradition by giving some role to dissecting in anatomical instructions. Both teachers gave in their own ways a telling testimony of their student’s anatomical expertise. Guenther, in a book published in 1536, recorded in glowing terms Vesalius’s discovery of the spermatic vessels.

    Sylvius, however, decried violently Vesalius’s daring claim that Galen, the great authority in physiology since classical times, wrote on the inner organs of the body without ever seeing them. Because of the outbreak of war between France and Charles V, Vesalius, a citizen of the Low Countries, which were a part of the Holy Roman Empire, had to leave Paris in 1536. He returned to Louvain, where, at the recommendation of Guenther, Vesalius, still a student, was permitted to conduct public dissections.

    He also published a Paraphrase of the Ninth Book of Rhazes (Rhazes, also known as al-Rasi, was a Moslem physician of the early 10th century), in which he made a considerable effort to substitute Latin terms for the still heavily Arabic medical terminology. But Vesalius soon became embroiled in disputes with faculty members, evidencing both his genius and his quarrelsome character. He was practically compelled to go the next year to the University of Padua.

    There Vesalius passed his doctoral examination with such honors in December 1537 that he was immediately appointed professor of surgery and anatomy. In 1538 he published six sheets of his anatomical drawings under the title Tabulae anatomicae sex. The publication was a signal success. Because of the great demand the sheets soon were reprinted, without Vesalius’s authorization, in Cologne, Paris, Strasbourg, and elsewhere. In 1539 there followed his essay on bloodletting in which he first described the veins that draw blood from the side of the torso.

    This opened the way to the study of the venous values and led ultimately to the discovery of the circulation of blood by William Harvey. II. Works and Writings De Corporis Fabrica In 1543, Vesalius asked Johannes Oporinus to help publish the seven-volume De humani corporis fabrica (On the fabric of the human body), a groundbreaking work of human anatomy he dedicated to Charles V and which most believe was illustrated by Titian’s pupil Jan Stephen van Calcar, though others believe was illustrated by different artists working in the studio of Titian, and not from Van Calcar himself.

    A few weeks later he published another version of his opera, entitled De humani corporis fabrica librorum epitome (Abridgement of the Structure of the Human Body) more commonly known as Epitome, with a stronger focus on illustrations than text, so as to help readers easily understand his findings. The actual text of Epitome was an abridged form of his work in De fabrica, and the organization of the two books were quite varied. He dedicated it to Philip II of Spain, son of the Emperor.

    The Fabrica emphasized the priority of dissection and what has come to be called the “anatomical” view of the body, seeing human internal functioning as an essentially corporeal structure filled with organs arranged in three-dimensional space. This was in stark contrast to many of the anatomical models used previously, which had strong Galenic/Aristotelean elements, as well as elements of astrology. Although modern anatomical texts had been published by Mondino and Berenger, much of their work was clouded by their reverence for Galen and Arabian doctrines.

    Besides the first good description of the sphenoid bone, he showed that the sternum consists of three portions and the sacrum of five or six; and described accurately the vestibule in the interior of the temporal bone. He not only verified the observation of Etienne on the valves of the hepatic veins, but he described the vena azygos, and discovered the canal which passes in the fetus between the umbilical vein and the vena cava, since named ductus venosus.

    He described the omentum, and its connections with the stomach, the spleen and the colon; gave the first correct views of the structure of the pylorus; observed the small size of the caecal appendix in man; gave the first good account of the mediastinum and pleura and the fullest description of the anatomy of the brain yet advanced. He did not understand the inferior recesses; and his account of the nerves is confused by regarding the optic as the first pair, the third as the fifth and the fifth as the seventh. In this work, Vesalius also becomes the first person to describe mechanical ventilation.

    In 1538, Vesalius wrote Epistola, docens venam axillarem dextri cubiti in dolore laterali secundam (A letter, teaching that in cases of pain in the side, the axillary vein of the right elbow be cut) which demonstrated a revived venesection, a classical procedure in which blood was drawn near the site of the ailment. He sought to locate the precise site for venesection in pleurisy within the framework of the classical method. The real significance of the book attempt to support his arguments by the location and continuity of the venous system from his observations rather than appeal to earlier published works.

    With this novel approach to the problem of venesection, Vesalius posed the then striking hypothesis that anatomical dissection might be used to test speculation. The second edition of the Fabrica, in 1555, contained many improvements on the first, but in retrospect it was also a disappointment. One wonders about the new course medicine might have taken, had Vesalius dedicated himself completely to the cause of anatomical research. Some time after the accession of Philip II to the imperial throne, Vesalius became again one of the imperial physicians.

    Vesalius’s absence from medical schools showed itself in his Examination of Gabriele Fallopio’s Anatomic Observations (1561), in which he had to avoid passing judgment on a number of points in Fallopio’s book because he had no way of verifying them. It is a moot question whether Vesalius used a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1564 as a pretext to leave Spain and the imperial court. Some claimed that he went to the Holy Land to study medicinal plants on the plains of Jericho, a topic on which he is known to have discoursed on his way there.

    Vesalius might have very well made the pilgrimage out of devotion, as did many millions before and after him. Upon his return from Jerusalem he was to take the chair of the suddenly deceased Fallopio in Padua, but he died on the island of Zenta off the Greek coast. III. Influences of effects to the modern world/civilization. Vesalius, Andreas (visa’le? s), 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. The Belgian anatomist Andreas Vesalius was among the first to dissect cadavers and accurately depict human anatomy. He studied in Louvain and Paris, but spent much of his career in Italy, lecturing in Padua, Basel, Pisa and Bologna.

    His seven-volume text De Humani Corporis Fabrica (The Structure of the Human Body), published in 1543, began the modern science of anatomy. His descriptions and the skilled illustrations of Jan Stephen van Calcar (once a student with Titian) overturned medical traditions based on the 2nd-century theories of Galen. The furor caused by his books led Vesalius to give up research and accept a position as royal physician to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (and, later, to his son Philip II of Spain). The Inquisition condemned Vesalius to death for dissecting a human body, but his connections o royalty helped knock the sentence down to a forced pilgrimage to Jerusalem in 1564. On his return voyage his ship was damaged at sea and he died near Zante (Zakynthos), off the coast of Greece. One of the famous stories about Vesalius is that he proved men and women have the same number of ribs, heresy to those who believed the Old Testament story of Eve being created from one of Adam’s ribs. The Belgian anatomist Andreas Vesalius (1514-1564) was the founder of modern anatomy. His major work, “De humani corporis fabrica, ” is a milestone in scientific progress.

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