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Andrea Vesalio

(Bruxelles, 31.12.1514 – Zante, 1564)

He is considered the founder of modern anatomy.

In fact, he first raised the issue of having to rewrite descriptions of the human body and its component parts, based on the practice of dissecting bodies. He went against the ancient traditions which, for centuries, had been dominated by anatomy texts written by Galeno, mostly based on the dissection and vivisection of animals.

In 1533, he began studying medicine in Paris under the guidance of the doctors and humanists Jacques Dubois and Johann Guinther. Between 1535 and 1536, he carried out his first osteology research into human bones collected from cemeteries and execution sites and carried out his first dissections. In 1537, he was in Padua where the university awarded him a doctorate in medicine and where, shortly afterwards, he was appointed professor of surgery and anatomy at the age of just 23.

He spent six years teaching and carrying out research at the University of Padova and often used skeletons, bones and illustrative drawings in order to demonstrate theories to his students. In 1538, he began to write his main body of work, “De humani corporis fabrica”, with the collaboration of various artists from the school of Tiziano who helped with the drawings. He completed this work in 1542, together with an epitome. In 1543, the year De humani corporis fabrica was published, he marked a turning point, separating the two eras of medicine: the medieval period and the modern age. In August 1543, he also completed his work “Fabrica” (a collection of over 300 illustrations with captions) which he wanted to use to convince the world of medicine that anatomy was of fundamental importance.

When he was 28 years old, Vesalio left Italy to become the personal doctor to Charles V and then Philip II of Spain. Thanks to him, Padua became the first large study centre for human and comparative anatomy.
He died in 1564 in Zante during a trip to the Holy Land.