was born into a medical family and was encouraged from
an early age to read about medical ideas and practice.
He went to Louvain University from 1528 to 1533 when
he moved to Paris. Vesalius returned to Louvain in 1536
because of war in France. He was anxious to continue
his study of anatomy and made moves to acquire a Skeleton
to enhance his understanding.
major developments that Vesalius made in medical theory
came as a result of his work in Padua. He moved here
after falling out with his professor in Louvain. In
Padua Vesalius conducted his own dissections: unheard
of at the time, and made detailed notes and drawings.
Many who felt that drawings had little place in a scientific
field frowned upon this practice. He continued however
and in 1538 published a collection of labelled drawings
entitled ‘Tabulae Sex’. These drawings demonstrated
that he understood some of the faults in Galen’s work,
yet he made no open criticism of Galen’s theories. His
drawings in fact contradict themselves: one picture
show a liver with 5 lobes, as Galen had suggested, and
another has two: as found in Humans.
then produced his letter on Venesection, which is the
bleeding of patients. In this he criticised doctors
who bled on the opposite side of the body and only let
a small amount of blood out. He provided drawings that
showed why he, and Hippocrates and Galen, were correct
to advocate bleeding the infected area and removing
a larger amount of blood. To justify this he produced
drawings showing how the veins were connected and used
a scientific argument to justify his logic.
next piece of work was of monumental proportions. His
book ‘The fabric of the Human body’ published in 153
was a comprehensive study of the human body. It contained
anatomical drawings of all parts of the body and offered
many new conclusions as to the way of treating disease.
The book showed how muscle is built up in layers, highlighted
errors in previous theories of anatomy and made, for
the first time, good use of drawings to support the
argument being presented. Vesalius was anxious to ensure
the accuracy of his book and personally oversaw the
production of the plates that were used for his illustrations.
book was a major break through in medical history for
a number of reasons. It developed the use of technical
drawings and disproved theories that had been in place
in Europe for many hundred of years. Despite the clarity
of his work, argument and presentation however, many
people chose to dispute his theories at the time: convinced
that the works of Galen were correct.